Europe

Pope, Anglican leader celebrate 50 years of dialogue

  • Pope Francis, left, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, arrive for vespers prayers in the church of San Gregorio al Celio, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    Pope Francis, left, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, arrive for vespers prayers in the church of San Gregorio al Celio, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis is flanked by Mons. Lorenzo Sapienza, right, and Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as he arrives for vespers prayers in the church of San Gregorio al Celio, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    Pope Francis is flanked by Mons. Lorenzo Sapienza, right, and Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as he arrives for vespers prayers in the church of San Gregorio al Celio, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis greets Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during the opening ceremony of the 1st international conference on sports and faith " Sport at the Service of Humanity", the first global conference on faith and sport promoted by the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture, in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 5 ,2016.  (AP Photo/Fabio Frustaci)

    Pope Francis greets Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during the opening ceremony of the 1st international conference on sports and faith " Sport at the Service of Humanity", the first global conference on faith and sport promoted by the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture, in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 5 ,2016. (AP Photo/Fabio Frustaci)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis is pushing through with an unusually high-powered month of outreach to other Christians, celebrating 50 years of Catholic dialogue with the Anglican Church in between important visits to Orthodox and Lutheran leaders.

Francis joined the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for a vigil prayer service Wednesday at Rome's church of St. Gregory. The church is named for the 6th-century pope who dispatched missionaries to England to spread Christianity.

The celebration comes days after Francis returned from Georgia, where he tried to improve relations with the Georgian Orthodox Church, one of the most conservative and hostile to Rome. Francis will shortly travel to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Catholic-Anglican relations have been strained by issues including female bishops and same-sex marriage.