Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill: Finding Faith in a Divisive Place
On his way to a six-day trip to Mexico next week, Pope Francis I will make an unscheduled stopover in Havana, Cuba on February 12. There he will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the religious leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. This unprecedented meeting marks a milestone in the strained relationship between the two churches who have been at odds since 1054.
The meeting of these two religious leader has been in the making for decades. Negotiations for a meeting between Patriarch Alexy II and Pope John Paul II were held in 1996 but ultimately fell through. This event marks the first time since the churches split in the 11th century that the leaders of these two institutions will meet, although President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Pope Francis I met briefly in June 2015. Formal relations between Russia and Vatican City were established only recently in 2009.
Both parties have released statements express optimism for the meeting. They are expected to meet for two hours before presenting a joint declaration.