Cuba hosts the Pope and Russian patriarch’s first meeting in nearly 1,000 years

News from Cuba | Monday, 15 February 2016

Pope Francis has met the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, in Cuba. The meeting marks the first encounter in history between a Roman Catholic pope and a Russian Orthodox patriarch in the nearly 1,000 years since Eastern Orthodoxy split with Rome.

The two religious leaders met at a venue inside José Martí International Airport in Havana.

TeleSUR reported that it was Raúl Castro who brokered the historic meeting. The meeting is further credit to the diplomatic capabilities of Cuba, which has also been the location of the ongoing historic peace negations between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP.

Patriarch Kirill arrived in Havana on Thursday and was greeted by the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, who also received Pope Francis in Cuba five months ago.

Pope Francis, who flew from Mexico for the visit at the Havana aiport, said “I do not want to leave without expressing heartfelt thanks to Cuba, the great Cuban people, and their President, here present. I am grateful for his active participation. If this continues, Cuba will be the capital of unity.”

Patriarch Krill visited the Solidarity with Panama school for special needs students in Havana, where he delivered a donation of wheel chairs, other school supplies, and equipment for the children. He also attended a mass, where Raúl Castro was in attendance.

Patriarch Kirill warmly welcomed the presence of the authorities of the Catholic Church at the mass, as well as the presence of President Raúl.

“With all my heart I wish you God's help,” he said, adding “prosperity for the Cuban people. Cuba is a heroic country, but what happened at the José Martí airport, when for the first time a Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and a Pope met, makes this island of liberty extraordinary. God help the Cuban people.”

The Russian Orthodox Church leader also met with Fidel Castro, where they discussed international relations. Following the meeting, Fidel wrote in the Granma:

“Sadly, almost all religions have been obliged to decry the destructive reality of war and its terrible consequences. They have been obliged to devote their greatest energies to this task. The singular importance of the meeting between Pope Francis and His Holiness Kirill in Havana is that it raised the hopes of the world’s peoples.

“Peace has been the golden dream of humanity, and the peoples’ aspiration, at every moment in history. Thousands of nuclear weapons are hanging over humanity’s head. Preventing the most brutal war that could be unleashed has undoubtedly been the fundamental objective of efforts by religious leaders of churches directed by men such as Pope Francis, Pontiff of the Catholic Church, and His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

“To struggle for peace is the most sacred duty of all human beings, whatever their religion, country of origin, skin colour, advanced or youthful age may be.”

Based on articles in the Granma, TeleSUR, Associated Press and the Guardian

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