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Historic Meeting of Church Leaders in Havana

By on February 12, 2016

SAN JUAN – After centuries of failed attempts and lengthy negotiations, both Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will meet briefly in Havana Friday before each continues on their respective Latin American missions. This is the first meeting of the two religious leaders since 1054, when Christianity suffered its great schism.

The meeting is considered an opportunity for both religious institutions to work toward the building of a civilized and peaceful coexistence among the people of the world.

In this photo combination, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, right, serves the Christmas Mass in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 and Pope Francis prays during an audience at the Vatican on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev/Andrew Medichini, Files)

In this photo combination, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, right, serves the Christmas Mass in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 and Pope Francis prays during an audience at the Vatican on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev/Andrew Medichini, Files)

As the Catholic Church was getting ready for the meeting, Pope Francis referred to Patriarch Kirill as “my dear brother” during his Sunday prayers at Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi stated earlier this week that the Holy See and Moscow’s Patriarchy hope for the meeting to be a sign of hope “to all men of goodwill.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of State, highlighted the fact that Cuba was selected to be the venue for the conclave because it is a neutral territory, where there are no “denominational difficulties.”

The patriarch proposed the meeting because he would be traveling throughout Latin America, and the Pope, who had previously expressed willingness to meet wherever convenient, accepted the proposal. It has been 20 years since both churches began discussing the possibility of this meeting.  

Cardinal Parolin emphasized that the document the leaders would sign will contribute greatly to the ecumenical cause and world peace.

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