‘First in history’ – Pope Francis to meet Russian Patriarch in Cuba

‘First in history’ – Pope Francis to meet Russian Patriarch in Cuba February 5, 2016

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2016 / 04:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday the Vatican announced that while on his way to Mexico, Pope Francis stop in Cuba to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in the first meeting between the two leaders since their churches split over 1,000 years ago.

“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 February 12 next,” a joint Feb. 5 press release from the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church read.

Kirill, patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, will arrive to Havana Feb. 11 for an official visit to South America.

His Feb. 11-22 visit includes stops in Cuba, Brasil, Chile and Paraguay.

Pope Francis himself will arrive to Havana’s José Martí International Airport the next day while on his way to Mexico, where he will be on an official visit until Feb. 17.

The Pope will be greeted by both the Patriarch and Cuban president Raul Castro at the airport. From there, they will head to the presidential room of the airport, where Francis and Kirill will have a lengthy private conversation and sign a joint declaration.

In the press release, it was noted that the encounter is the fruit of “a long preparation,” and will be “the first in history and will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches.”

No leader from either church has met with the other since their churches broke during the Great Schism of 1054.

Both the Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate expressed their hope that the meeting “will also be a sign of hope for all people of good will,” and invited all Christians “to pray fervently for God to bless this meeting, that it may bear good fruits.”

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