Pope, Russian Orthodox patriarch to meet in historic step

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in a historic step to heal the 1,000-year-old schism that divided Christianity between East and West, both churches announced Friday.

See Full Article

The meeting between Francis and Patriarch Kirill will be the first ever between the leaders of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches.

Francis is due to travel to Mexico Feb. 12-18. He will stop in Cuba on the way and meet with Kirill on Feb. 12 at the Havana airport, where they will sign a joint declaration, a joint statement said.

The two churches split during the Great Schism of 1054 and have remained estranged over a host of issues, including the primacy of the pope and Russian Orthodox accusations that the Catholic Church is poaching converts in Russia.

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 the tiny Catholic community in largely Orthodox lands.

The persecution of Christians - Catholic and Orthodox - in the Middle East and Africa, however, has had the effect of bringing the two churches closer together.

In November 2014, Francis had said he had told Kirill. "I'll go wherever you want. You call me and I'll go." Kirill will be in Cuba on an official visit.

The meeting, which was announced jointly at the Vatican and in Moscow, marks a major development in the Vatican's long effort to bridge the divisions in Christianity.

In the joint statement, the two churches said the meeting "will mark an important stage in relations between the two churches. The Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate hope that it will also be a sign of hope for all people of good will. They invite all Christians to pray fervently for God to bless this meeting, that it may bear good fruits."

Metropolitan Illarion, foreign policy chief of the Russian Orthodox Church, told reporters on Friday that there are still core disagreements between the Holy See and the Russian Church, in particular on various Orthodox churches in western Ukraine.

"Despite the existing ecclesiastical obstacles, a decision has been taken to hold a meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis," he said.

"The situation in the Middle East, in northern and central Africa and in other regions where extremists are perpetrating a genocide of Christians requires immediate action and an even closer co-operation between Christian churches," Illarion said. "In this tragic situation, we need to put aside internal disagreements and pool efforts to save Christianity in the regions where it is subject to most severe persecution."

The Vatican has long nurtured ties with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, who is considered "first among equals" within the Orthodox Church. Starting with Pope Paul VI, various popes have called upon the Ecumenical Patriarch in hopes of bridging closer ties with the Orthodox faithful.

But the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the largest church in Orthodoxy and the most powerful, has always kept its distance from Rome. Joint theological commissions have met over the years and the Russian church's foreign minister has made periodic visits to Rome, but a pope-patriarch meeting has never been possible until now.

About two-thirds of the world's Orthodox Christians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said.

About 75 per cent of Russia's 144 million population call themselves Russian Orthodox, according to the latest polls, although only a fraction of them say they are observant. The Catholic Church claims about 1.2 billion faithful.

Under Francis, the Vatican has encouraged continuing ecumenical ties with the Orthodox as well as other Christian denominations. And it has gone out of its way to be solicitous to Russia, especially in shying away from directly criticizing Moscow over its role in the Ukraine conflict.

Ever since Kirill took the helm of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2009, the church has enjoyed increasingly close ties with the Kremlin that critics have dismissed as the de-facto merging of the state and the church.

-----

Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed from Moscow.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • South Korea halts propaganda broadcasts before summit with North Korea

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - South Korea halted anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts across the rivals' tense border on Monday days before their leaders are to sit down for talks expected to focus on the North's nuclear program, Seoul officials said. Source
  • World watching for signs of North Korea nuke deal at 2 summits

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- When North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday the world will have a single overriding interest: How will they address North Korea's decades-long pursuit of nuclear-armed missiles? Source
  • Vancouver apologizes for 'historical wrongdoings committed against Chinese people'

    Canada News CBC News
    The City of Vancouver formally apologized to Chinese Canadians on Sunday for past legislation, regulations and policies that discriminated against them. "This is an important day for council and all Vancouverites to come together and recognize historical wrongdoings committed against Chinese people and to build a better future together," said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a written statement. Source
  • Memorial service held for woman killed in Southwest flight

    World News CTV News
    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Family and friends gathered Sunday to mourn an Albuquerque bank executive who died after the Southwest Airlines plane she was on blew an engine in midair. Nearly a thousand people attended the evening service for Jennifer Riordan, the Albuquerque Journal reported . Source
  • Vancouver's Chinese community receives apology for historical discrimination

    Canada News CTV News
    Vancouver city council has delivered a formal apology to the Chinese community for historical discrimination. Mayor Gregor Robertson, who read the apology in the English, said it was an important day to come together, recognize wrongdoings and build a better future. Source
  • Photos captures special moments from Barbara Bush's funeral

    World News CTV News
    This Saturday, April 21, 2018, photo provided by the Office of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, shows Bush, front center, and past presidents and first ladies Laura Bush, from left, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and current first lady Melania Trump in a group photo at the funeral service for former first lady Barbara Bush, in Houston. Source
  • Photos capture special moments from Barbara Bush's funeral

    World News CTV News
    This Saturday, April 21, 2018, photo provided by the Office of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, shows Bush, front center, and past presidents and first ladies Laura Bush, from left, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and current first lady Melania Trump in a group photo at the funeral service for former first lady Barbara Bush, in Houston. Source
  • Ellen DeGeneres pays tribute to Humboldt Broncos in Calgary

    Canada News CTV News
    Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres paid tribute to the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus collision on Saturday night in Calgary. The “Ellen DeGeneres Show” star entered the stage at the Saddledome carrying in a hockey stick, which she then held up and kissed. Source
  • Canadian and U.S. pot firms cross borders to raise money in battle for dominance

    Canada News CBC News
    As U.S. and Canadian government policies toward marijuana grow more divergent amid Canada's push for legalization, their stock exchanges have seen a flurry of cross-listing activity from companies eager to snap up investment capital and carve out dominant positions in a growing global market. Source
  • Canada's first tenured Inuit professor at U of S says research, opportunities 'a dream world'

    Canada News CBC News
    When she looks back at her childhood growing up in a small Greenland community, to her life now, as Canada's first tenured Inuit professor, Karla Jessen Williamson still feels a sense of disbelief. Growing up attending Danish schools, she said she and her fellow classmates were never inspired to believe they could achieve. Source