Pope meets Russian Orthodox head after 962 years

Church reconciliation and the welfare of Christians in Middle East and Africa on agenda during historic talks in Cuba.

13 Feb 2016 03:55 GMT 

Pope Francis has met with Patriarch Kirill in Cuba, in the first-ever papal meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in nearly 1,000 years.

"Finally!" Francis exclaimed as he embraced Kirill in the small, wood-paneled VIP room of Havana's airport, where the three-hour encounter took place on Friday.

"We are brothers," Francis added.

The two church leaders kissed one another three times on the cheek, and Kirill told the pope through an interpreter: "Now things are easier."


READ MORE: Pope urges reconciliation during trip to Sarajevo


Al Jazeera's Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Havana's airport, said the meeting was seen as a step towards healing the almost 1,000-year rift between the two churches.

She said that Francis, who was en route to Mexico, rearranged his schedule to attend the meeting with Kirill, who was already visiting Cuba.

"Cuba is a neutral ground, if you will; it has nothing to do with the difficult history between the two churches and President Raul Castro did play a hand in making this happen," Ghoneim said.

The Vatican is hoping the meeting will improve relations with other Orthodox churches and spur progress in dialogue over theological differences that have divided east from west ever since the Great Schism of 1054 split Christianity.

Following the meeting, Francis and Kirill issued a joint declaration expressing their concern about the plight of Christians in Iraq and Syria who are being killed and driven from their homes by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

In a joint appearance, Francis told reporters he was "grateful for the humility" of Kirill, while praising the Cuban president for hosting the talks. 

"If he continues this way, Cuba will become the capital of unity."

Ghoneim said that despite the existing divisions, the focus of the talks in Havana was on unity.

"The common goal here for both churches is to take a look at what's happening in the Middle East, as well as Africa. They believe that in those two spots, Christians are really at risk of being persecuted, and that's why the two sides came together in the spirit of collaboration, in the hope to work towards a solution to help Christians in those areas."

The two churches split in the Great Schism of 1054 and have remained estranged over a host of issues, including the primacy of the pope and, more recently, Russian Orthodox accusations that the Catholic Church was poaching converts in former Soviet lands.

Those tensions have prevented previous popes from ever meeting with the Russian patriarch, even though the Vatican has long insisted that it was merely ministering to tiny Catholic communities.

Immediately after his meeting with Kirill, the pontiff will fly to Mexico for a week-long tour.

Among his stops will be the crime-plagued Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec, the mainly indigenous southern state of Chiapas and the city of Ciudad Juarez.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

..........

SO  THE  TWO  GUYS  HAVE  MET;  SO  HISTORY  IS  MADE;  SO  THEY  HAVE  CONCERNS  ABOUT  CHRISTIANS  IN  ARAB  LANDS,  AND  PERSECUTION.

SO  THEY  SIGN  SOME  "DOCUMENTS"  -  THEY  CHEEK  KISS....... SO  WHAT?

IF  SOME  THINK  THIS  MEANS  THEY  WILL  EVENTUAL  UNITE  AS  ONE  CHURCH..... THEY  ARE  DREAMING  FAIRY  TALES  FROM  PLANET  PLUTO!

THE  TWO  LARGEST  CHRISTIAN  CHURCHES  ON  EARTH  WILL  NEVER  UNITE  IN  THIS  AGE.....THEY  HAVE  HUGE  DIFFERENCES,  NOT  THE  LEAST,  THE  TEACHING  OF  THE  POPE  DESCENDING  FROM  THE  APOSTLE  PETER,  AND  HEAD  OF  THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH...... THAT  ALONE  WILL  NEVER  BE  RESOLVED  SO  AS  TO  HAVE  A  UNION.  THE  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  CHURCH  WILL  NEVER  RELINQUISH  THE  POPE  AS  HEAD  OF  THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH.  THE  RC  CHURCH  HAS  OVER  ONE  BILLION  MEMBERS  WORLD  WIDE....THEY  WILL  NEVER  STEP  DOWN  FROM  TEACHING  THEY  ARE  THE  TRUE  CHURCH  OF  GOD,  AND  THE  POPE  IS  THE  HEAD  OF  THAT  CHURCH,  WITH  SUCCESSION  FROM  THE  APOSTLE  PETER.

THE  MEETING  OF  THESE  TWO  INDIVIDUALS  ON  A  FRIENDLY  BASIS,  IS  JUST  THAT...... KINDA  SAYING...."WE  WILL  NOT  THINK  OF  BEING  ENEMIES  AGAINST  EACH  OTHER,  WE  ARE  CONCERNED  FOR  CHRISTIANS  UNDER  PERSECUTION."  BUT  THAT  IS  IT.  THEY  AGREE  ON  THAT  SUBJECT,  BUT  WILL  POLITELY  SAY,  "WE  WILL  WITH  FRIENDLINESS  AGREE  TO  DISAGREE  ON  MANY  OTHER  SUBJECTS."

WHAT  DOES  THIS  MEETING  HOLD  FOR  END  TIME  PROPHECY?  JUST  ABOUT  NOTHING!!

WHEN  IT  COMES  TO  END  TIME  PROPHECY,  YOUR  BIBLE  MAKES  IT  VERY  CLEAR  THAT  CHRISTIANS  WILL  BE  AGAINST  CHRISTIANS.  THE  LAST  RESURRECTION  OF  THE  HOLY  ROMAN  EMPIRE,  THE  7TH  RESURRECTION,  WILL  BE  "CHRISTIAN"  -  THINKING  IT  IS  DOING  THE  WILL  OF  GOD,  TO  BRING  ITS  BRAND  OF  CHRISTIANITY  [WHICH  IT  WILL  CLAIM  IS  GOD'S  TRUE  CHRISTIANITY]  ON  THE  WORLD..... YES  AND  AS  BEFORE,  EVEN  BY  FORCE!

RUSSIAN  ORTHODOX  CHRISTIANITY  AND  ITS  FOLLOWERS,  WILL  NEVER  BECOME  A  PART  OF  THE  EUROPEAN  UNION..... RUSSIA  HAS  IT  OWN  MIGHTY  WORLD  POWER,  IT'S  OWN  NUCLEAR  ARMY;  IT  IS  A  POWER,  WORLD  POWER,  ALL  ON  ITS  OWN.  IT  HAS  ITS  OWN  "OIL"  [WHATEVER  THAT  MEANS  TODAY.... AS  THE  WORLD  MOVES  AWAY  FROM  OIL  USE];  IT  HAS  ITS  OWN  POLITICAL  MIND-SET,  ITS  OWN  INDEPENDENCE,  AS  A  WORLD  POWER.  IT  WILL  NEVER  RELINQUISH  THAT  WORLD  POWER  STATUS,  TO  BE  UNDER  THE  DICTATES  OF  A  EUROPE  MIND-SET,  AND  THE  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  CHURCH.....JUST  WILL  NEVER  HAPPEN!

Keith Hunt