Pope announces 'first in history' meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill05 February 2016 | by Christopher Lamb
Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will meet in Cuba next week
The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will meet in Cuba on 12 February.
The historic encounter will take place over two hours at Havana airport on Francis’ way to Mexico and include the signing of a joint declaration.
It will be seen as an important step in trying to heal the 1,000-year-old rift between Eastern and Western Christianity which split during the great schism of 1054.
A meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch has been on the cards for some time although it has always been envisaged that such an encounter needed to take place on neutral territory.
Patriarch Kirill is visiting Cuba at the invitation of President Raul Castro at the same time that the Pope is in Mexico (12-18 February).
A statement from the Holy See said: “This meeting of the Primates of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, after a long preparation, will be the first in history and will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches. The Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate hope that it will also be a sign of hope for all people of good will.”
Fr Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See Press Office, said that Pope Francis would be accompanied by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the meeting will take place with the use of Spanish and Russian interpreters.
While the “de facto” leader of the the Eastern Orthodox Church is the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the Russians hold a key influence in Orthodoxy.
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