February 8, 2016
(Joh 17:20-23) And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me. That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them: that, they may be one, as we also are one. I in them, and thou in me: that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me.
POPE FRANCIS: “I ask you to support with a prayer my trip to Mexico, which begins in a few days, and my meeting in Havana with dear brother Kirill".
NEWS.VA: Pope and Patriarch's encounter is 'sign of hope' for all Christians
The Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church announced on Friday that Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will hold a historic first encounter in Cuba on February 12th. A statement released jointly in Moscow and in Rome said the meeting will mark “an important stage in relations” between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and a “sign of hope for all people of good will”.
Pope Francis announced at the start of the Jubilee year of mercy that he himself intended to make some practical gestures showing God’s mercy to the world on one Friday of each month. Friday February 12th may prove to be the most significant of all those gestures, as the leader of the Catholic world and the head of the largest Orthodox Church meet together to show that, despite the issues still dividing them, they are determined to pursue the path of mercy, forgiveness and the restoration of full Christian unity.
The historic encounter has been years in the making, at least since the fall of the Soviet Union, when Pope John Paul II first expressed his desire to visit Russia and further the reconciliation of East and Western Christianity which officially divided in 1054. Since then there have been several behind-the-scenes attempts to orchestrate a meeting between popes and patriarchs, but political and religious tensions continued to stand in the way.
Following a significant warming of relations – Cardinal Koch of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity travelled to Moscow and Metropolitan Hilarion came to Rome four times last year – the opportunity arose for a meeting on neutral territory in Cuba. The island nation was a key ally of Moscow during the Cold War and more recently Pope Francis played an important role in the rapprochement between Washington and Havana.
The Pope will stop over at Havana airport en route to Mexico City, while Patriarch Kirill will arrive the previous day at the start of a visit to three Latin American nations. They will have a two hour private conversation, in Spanish and Russian, with just their interpreters and closest advisers present in the airport salon. They will exchange gifts and sign a joint declaration before speaking briefly with journalists to share their impressions and expectation. Both leaders have asked Christians everywhere to pray for this encounter, a practical sign of healing, forgiveness and great hope for the future.
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