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July 18, 2018

Pope, Russian Orthodox Patriarch hold historic meeting …Sign call to end persecution of Christians

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Pope Francis has met the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, in Cuba Friday, Feb. 12. The meeting marked the first encounter in history between a Roman Catholic pope and a Russian Orthodox patriarch in the nearly 1,000 years since Eastern Orthodoxy split with Rome.
“Finally!” the pope exclaimed as he embraced Patriarch Kirill in the small, wood-paneled VIP room of Havana’s airport, where the three-hour encounter was taking place. “We are brothers.”
Pope Francis, dressed in white with a skullcap, and Patriarch Kirill, wearing a tall, domed hat that dangled a white stole over black robes, joined arms and kissed one another three times on the cheek when they met inside the terminal.
Speaking through an interpreter, the patriarch told the pope: “Now things are easier.”
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, and Pope Francis signed a joint declaration after their first historic meeting in Havana, Cuba. They called on world leaders to prevent Christians in the Middle East from “being completely exterminated” and to help refugees from those regions.
“Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa, whole families, villages, and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated,” the declaration stated.
Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis drew attention to the violence in Iraq and Syria, stressing the severity of the humanitarian problem in the region, and urging the international community to stand up and help.
The two also discussed the relations between the Churches and the problems of their believers, in addition to sharing views on the progress of human civilization.
The declaration calls on the world to unite against terrorism and help free those who have been kidnapped by extremists.
“We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.”
The two also touched upon Ukraine, condemning the violence that has “thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis” and urging all sides to embrace a peaceful solution to the conflict. “We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace.”
The Churches are now looking into overcoming some historical differences and joining efforts to face the challenges of the 21st century. “Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.


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