Pope Francis to Patriarch Kirill: ‘We are brothers’

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis meet at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana Feb. 12. The pope was traveling to Mexico for a six-day pastoral visit. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill walked toward each other smiling, then embraced and kissed each other three times with warmth and emotion, as they met for the first time ever, in a lounge at Havana’s José Martí  International airport, at 2:26 p.m. (local time) on Feb 12.

“Finally!” That was the pope’s first word as he met the patriarch. And then in the following 10 minutes, speaking in Spanish, he told Patriarch Kirill many times, “We are brothers! We are brothers!”

Advertisement

The two leaders spoke together in public as photographers and TV camera operators recorded this first ever meeting between a pope and a patriarch of Moscow.

“Now the things are much easier,” the patriarch remarked, as both smiled warmly and with great affection, clearly happy they were finally together.

“It is now more clear that this is the will of God,” Francis added as the two talked to each other through interpreters—Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the External Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate.

After the brief public session, the two Christian leaders then spoke together in private behind close doors, always assisted by the interpreters. Their private conversation is expected to last two hours, after which they will sign a joint declaration, the text of which will only be released after it is signed.

Francis arrived at Havana’s José Martí  International airport less than half an hour earlier, at 1:55 p.m. local time on Friday afternoon, Feb. 12, after a 12-and-a-half-hour flight from Rome, especially for this meeting with Patriarch Kirill. The Russian Church leader had arrived the previous day.

This neutral venue, on the island of Cuba, had been agreed on less than three months ago since both church leaders were in this region at the same time (see my story yesterday).

This was the first meeting ever between a Bishop of Rome and a Patriarch of Moscow in the more than 1,000-year history of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). It opens a whole new chapter in relations between the Catholic Church and this sister Church, one that could also have great significance for the future of the Catholic-Orthodox journey to Christian unity.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The news from Ireland and the United States reminds us of Herod, of Pharaoh. What culture betrays its children?
The EditorsMay 26, 2018
A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, is passing by a 2-1 margin with most of the votes counted.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018