In an historic moment, it was announced that Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis will hold a meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Cuba on February 12th. This will the first ever meeting between a Roman Pontiff and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi, S.J. stated that this meeting was not ; it tan “improvisation” but that it took years of planning and negotiations to come to actuality. Both the Vatican and the Russian Patriarchate and long stipulated that a meeting would have to happen in a neutral location, instead of Rome or Moscow.
A meeting with the Russian Patriarch had been a dream of Saint Pope John Paul II that was never achieved because of tensions over the reemergence of Eastern Catholic Churches, in particular the Ukrainian Catholic Church, after the fall of the Soviet Union and reestablishment of the Latin-rite Catholic hierarchy of Russia under John Paul II in 2002.
A joint press release from the Vatican and Patriarchate reports that the two leaders will sign a joint declaration to mark the occasion.
Joint Press Release of the Holy See and of the Patriarchate of Moscow:
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 Kirilll of Moscow and All Russia will meet on February 12th next. Their meeting will take place in Cuba, where the Pope will make a stop on his way to Mexico, and where the Patriarch will be on an official visit. It will include a personal conversation at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, and will conclude with the signing of a joint declaration.
This meeting of the Primates of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, after a long preparation, will be the first in history and 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.