Pope, Russia’s Patriarch Kirill will soon meet in Cuba.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the leader of Russian Orthodox Church will create history when they will meet at Havana in Cuba within the next few days. This action is one of the steps to heal a schism within the two churches. The divide occurred in 1054. This step, if successful, will go a long way to bridge the divide between the East and the West. The largest orthodox church is the Russian Orthodox Church.

Both the Roman Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church have announced the February 12 meeting. This will be the first time in history that the leaders of the two churches will meet. Francis is scheduled to travel to Mexico and will make a stop over at Havana, Cuba. He will meet Kirill at the airport itself where the two are expected to have a private conversation for approximately two hours and then a joint declaration will be signed. According to Reverend Federico Lombardi, the spokesman for the Vatican, this event has extreme importance not only in the way of ecumenical relations, but also among the Christian confessions.

The endeavor of reuniting the two branches of Christianity, the Eastern part and the Western part, has long been the dream of St. John Paul II, a pope of Slavic origins. He wanted to visit Russia, and if not possible, wanted to meet the head of Russian Orthodox Church at any location chosen by the latter. For many years, such rumors of the meeting of the two popes at a neutral site erupted. However, nothing actualized, mainly due to the resistance from the Russian Orthodoxy. They are afraid that Catholic style ecumenism means kowtowing to the authority of the pope. The suspicion remains strong even after repeated assurances by a number of popes like Benedict XVI and John Paul. They now seek “reconciled diversity.”

There are a number of other reasons as well. The clergy and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church have a number of standing complaints leveled against Catholic Church. It is insisted by the Orthodoxy that these disputes should be resolved prior to a meeting which takes place between the heads of the two churches. If this is not done, the whole scheme will be just a cheap photographic opportunity. The Russians claim that the Catholic establishment is poaching the converts resident in the former U.S.S.R.  

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