Pope Francis pledges support for 'suffering' Christians in the Middle East
Pope Francis gestures at the end of his weekly general audience on Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on October 22, 2014 (AFP Photo/Filippo Monteforte)

Pope Francis and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on Sunday made a joint pledge to support Christians in the Middle East, saying they could not let Christianity be driven out of the region.

"We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years," the two Church leaders said in a joint declaration.

Referring to the rampage of violence by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Iraq and Syria, they warned that Christians in the region were being persecuted and forced from their homes.

"The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community," they added.

The two church leaders also called for "a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship."