Patriarch Bartholomew I with Pope Francis during the last apostolic visit in Bahrain. Photo: Vatican Media

His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, will make a historic visit to Malta next week during which he will meet refugees as well as the sizeable Orthodox Christian community on the island.

Patriarch Bartholomew I, who will visit between December 4 and 7 at the invitation of Archbishop Charles Scicluna, is also due to meet the President of Malta, the Maltese Episcopal Conference and residents at the Corradino Correctional Facility.

The first ever Patriarch to visit the island will also be conferred a Doctorate honoris causa by the University of Malta.

Given the significant Orthodox Christian presence on the island, the visit of the Patriarch – often described as the most senior Orthodox figure – is viewed as having considerable ecumenical importance. During his stay he will encounter Christians from various Orthodox Churches in Malta as well as visiting St Paul’s Grotto in Rabat and other places of religious significance.

The public is encouraged to attend the two main events associated with the visit: Patriarchal Vespers at St Nicholas Church (Tal-Erwieħ) in Valletta on December 5 at 6pm and an ecumenical service at St John’s Co-Cathedral on December 6 at 6:30pm, where he will also meet the heads of other churches as well as persons engaged in ecumenism in Malta and Gozo.

The 82-year-old Patriarch, who was installed as Archbishop of Constantinople in 1991, has been working with Pope Francis on improving Catholic-Orthodox relations, and has been vociferous on environment and migrant issues.