United in their opposition towards equal marriage, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will meet Pope Francis for the first time later this week, it has been announced by the Vatican.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby will be travelling to Rome on Friday with the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The Vatican said Archbishop Welby had collaborated “closely” with the Most Rev Vincent Nichols to “safeguard” marriage and other Christian values.

Pope Francis caused a stir earlier on Tuesday following the publication of comments made last week.

It’s been reported the 76-year-old Catholic leader admitted to the existence of a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican’s secretive administration, the Curia.

His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, left office earlier this year amid a wave of speculation that his decision to resign was in part finalised by a Vatican report showing that the Holy See (Papal court) was affected by outside influences, including a “gay lobby”.

The Vatican denied the reports made in the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.

In keeping with his predecessor, Pope Francis has often used emotive language in order to state his opposition towards equality.

Three years ago as cardinal he warned that efforts to legalise equal marriage in Argentina would “confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Although he has often attempted to strike a more conciliatory tone on LGBT issues, Archbishop Welby, leader of the Anglican Church, attacked the UK Government’s proposed Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill last week, saying that many faith groups, including the Church of England were “hesitant” about the bill, and that the bill would mean that marriage is “abolished, redefined and recreated”.