“Finally!” It took almost one thousand years for the Catholics and Orthodox to find dialogue again. Pope Francis, with his typical naturalness, expressed it with an exclamation of relief. The meeting with Kirill, the Russian Patriarch, marks a historic turning point in the relations between the two confessions that make a decisive step forward towards the horizon – which is still distant – of unity. The meeting took place in the hall of honor of the international airport “José Martí” of the Cuban capital. A”neutral” territory, which had been chosen seizing the opportunity of Bergoglio’s trip to Mexico, while Kirill is on an official visit to Cuba, to keep away from the reasons of old religious and historical divisions.
At the beginning of the interview, in the presence of Cardinal Kurt Koch and Metropolitan Hilarion, Bergoglio repeated the word “hermano” (brother in Spanish) for several times. “Somos hermanos“, we are brothers, reiterated the Pontiff to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. At one point Kirill also said: “Now things are easier.” And the Pope answered in Spanish, then translated into Russian by the interpreter: “It is clear that this is the will of God.” The Christians of the Middle East, but also the family, the environment, and the wish to continue on the path of unity are among the themes of the joint statement signed by the Pope and the Patriarch Kirill. There was also Ukraine among the issues discussed, for which they hope that the crisis will be overcome soon, and Europe with its “Christian roots”, recalled during the dialogue.
“Our gaze is directed primarily towards the regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution”, it is one of the steps of the document on the martyrdom of Christians. On the family: “It is based on marriage, a free and authentic act of love between a man and a woman,” – reads the statement, which expresses concern about the crisis the institution is experiencing.
President Raul Castro, the proud host who saw Bergoglio again after his visit to Cuba last September, after another epochal “thaw”, the one between Cuba and the United States. Castro welcomed and greeted Francis who had just got off the plane with a warm handshake, then they had a private conversation in the halls of the airport, before meeting Kirill. Yet, the new course between the Pope and the head of the Orthodox Russians – which had never been organized successfully by John Paul II nor by Benedict XVI – was the true protagonist of this day that will remain written in the history books. At the end of their meeting, the Pope and Kirill signed a joint statement on major issues. “Praying for my brothers in Christ, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill.
“Glad that the dialogue opened by Athenagoras and Paul VI in 1964 continues to offer its fruits,” – reads the tweet of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew. “Today is a day of grace. The meeting with Patriarch Kirill is a gift from God. Pray for us,” – Pope Francis tweeted during his flight to Havana. A journey “to bring a message of hope”, – as Francis defined his visit to Cuba and Mexico in the greeting telegram sent to President Mattarella: the new bridge built today certainly gives hope for a world with fewer divisions.
Before leaving for Mexico, the Pope sent his greetings to the Cuban President, Raul Castro. “Mr. President – Bergoglio wrote – along my way to Mexico, on my pastoral journey as a missionary of mercy and peace, thank you for your generous welcome during my short stop in Cuba, which has given me the opportunity to recall the affectionate and warm hospitality I had received from the Cuban people last September”. Above all – the Holy Father continued – I want to thank you, Mr. President, and your government, for the will to make possible my meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.” According to the Pope “it was an important meeting, from which a lot of good things will hopefully come out. We cannot stop our commitment on the path of dialogue, encounter, and understanding, if we want to reach peace, reconciliation, and coexistence of all people of good will”.