· The historic meeting will take place in Cuba on 12 February ·
“The Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow are pleased to announce that, by the grace of God, His Holiness Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will meet on Friday, 12 February”. This historic event was announced on Friday, 5 February, in a joint press release of the Holy See and of the Patriarchate of Moscow. On his way to Mexico, the Pope will stop in Havana, “where the Patriarch will be on an official visit”. The schedule, according to the joint statement, “will include a personal conversation at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport, and will conclude with the signing of a join declaration”.
The meeting, Fr Federico Lombardi explained to the journalists in the Holy See Press Office, is the fruit of years of work and reveals a climate of great trust and mutual collaboration to overcome the difficulties that still exist between the two Churches. The Catholic Church is in dialogue with the Orthodox, however there had never been an official meeting with the Primate of the largest Orthodox Church. This meeting will be “the first in history”. On learning of the news, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople “expressed his satisfaction and joy for this step forward on the path of good ecumenical relations”.
The Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow, the joint statement reads, “hope that it will also be a sign of hope for all people of good will”. For this reason, “they invite all Christians to pray fervently for God to bless this meeting, that it may bear fruits”.
The news was announced contemporaneously in the Vatican and in Moscow. During the press conference, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk declared that the situation in the Middle East and in other regions in which “a real Christian genocide is taking place” requires “urgent measures and closer cooperation between Christian Churches” putting aside “internal disagreements”.
Kirill will arrive in Havana on Thursday, 11 February, for his official visit as Patriarch in Latin America. He will also visit Paraguay and Brazil. The same day Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Dominican priest Hyacinthe Destivelle will be in Cuba in order to finalize the details of the meeting.
Francis will leave Rome on Friday morning, 12 February, at 7:15 am and will arrive in Havana at 2 pm local time. President Raúl Castro Ruiz; Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana and the President of the bishops' conference; Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez will welcome the Holy Father on his arrival.
The Pope's private meeting with Kirill will take place at 2:15 pm at the airport in both Spanish and Russian. It will last approximately two hours. Cardinal Koch, Metropolitan Hilarion and two interpreters will be present. Afterwards a joint declaration will be signed in Russian and Italian. Both the Pope and the Patriarch will deliver speeches. They will exchange gifts and the delegations will be presented. Then Francis will depart for Mexico.
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