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​At Last

“At last”. The first words Francis said after his historic embrace with Kirill told how much he had looked forward to this long-awaited moment. “We are brothers”, he added in Spanish, repeating the word hermano several times. “Now things are easier”, said the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, to which the Pontiff replied, “This is very clearly God’s will”. The ecumenical winter between Rome and Moscow thus melted on a hot afternoon in Cuba, with a gesture which certainly does not erase centuries of division, but which signals a new and promising beginning. The re-establishment of relations was accompanied by the first joint declaration signed by a Pope and a Russian Orthodox leader.

The meeting is destined to leave its mark on the ecumenical journey, but news of it came by way of a surprise announcement only a week before it actually took place. The two leaders met on Friday, 12 February, at 2:45 pm local time at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, where Pope Francis’ flight had landed just moments before. The meeting called for a change of course from the original plan which would have brought the Pontiff directly to Mexico, where instead he arrived late that afternoon.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 21, 2018

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