Applauding the election of Pope Francis, Orthodox leaders are stressing their hope for continued cooperation with the Catholic Church during his pontificate.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch KirilI of Moscow stressed that Orthodox Christians and Catholics should work together to defend fellow believers in countries where they are persecuted and to affirm traditional moral values in the modern world.

Catholic-Orthodox ties, long tense over Orthodox complaints of Catholic encroachments in the former Soviet Union, are widely believed to have improved after the April 2005 election of Pope Benedict. Intrachurch relations have been helped by growing mutual contacts and a declared readiness to cooperate in safeguarding moral and spiritual values in Europe.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, attended the inauguration of Pope Francis. He is the first patriarch of Constantinople to attend a papal installation since the Great Schism of 1054 separated Christianity between East and West.

While Patriarch Bartholomew did not attend the installation of Pope Benedict in 2005, he was a frequent visitor to the Vatican during Pope Benedict’s pontificate.

Catholicos Karekin II, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Seraphim also attended the inauguration along with at least 35 members of Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox delegations.

Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel Ciobotea said he hoped Pope Francis would “support Romanian Orthodox believers living in large numbers” in Europe.