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The time has come

· Francis leaves for Mexico but will first stop in Havana to meet Kirill ·

Francis is en route to Latin America today, 12 February, for his 12th international visit, but he will not be flying directly to Mexico City. Instead he will make a last-minute stop which was announced one week ago: his first port of call will be Havana, Cuba, for an unprecedented visit that will go down in history. It is here that the Pope of Rome will meet the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. 

After several proposals in the past, the meeting, anticipated for decades and coming about after a long preparation, as stated in the joint press release, did not appear to be this imminent. Nevertheless the time has come for this first embrace which is destined to produce developments on the ecumenical journey in ways that are currently unpredictable but which are hoped to bear a wealth of fruit. The meeting will take place at 2 pm local time, far from Europe in a room at the Havana airport.

For this reason, Francis’ fourth journey to Latin America — he has previously visited Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay and Cuba — will begin with an unexpected addition to the schedule, one of enormous importance for the journey toward Christian unity. This pivotal event, which in and of itself would be enough to make this trip memorable, will be followed by the Pope’s equally anticipated visit to Mexico: six days to encounter a people of profound faith, to share in their tragedies, anxieties and hopes, to invoke for them and with them the Virgin of Guadalupe — in fact the pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine is the central event of his visit — but also to touch with his own hands the difficulties in a country that suffers the contradictions of an entire continent. These issues burden a population that suffers from seemingly irresolvable problems of which the Pontiff is well aware, as he demonstrated in a video two weeks ago, answering questions posed by several Mexicans by way of Notimex. “If I come there it is to receive the best of you and to pray with you, that the problems of violence, corruption, and all that you know is taking place, be resolved, because the Mexico of violence, the Mexico of corruption, the Mexico of drug trafficking, the Mexico of cartels, is not the Mexico that our Mother wants, and I certainly do not want to hide any of that. On the contrary, I want to encourage you in the daily fight against corruption, against trafficking, against war, against disunity, against organized crime, against human trafficking”.

our correspondent Gaetano Vallini

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