The patriarchs at the airport
The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) Kirill and Pope Francis will hold a meeting at the airport Cuban Havana Thursday, 12 February at 12:00 (22:00 GMT). That the ROC and the Vatican managed to negotiate a historic meeting of the primates of the two leading Christian churches, it became known on 5 February.
The head of the press service of Patriarch Kirill A. Volkov, on the TV channel “Russia 24” said that the meeting will include a personal conversation at the airport two Church leaders and will end with the signing of the joint Declaration.
The meeting will be devoted to political and social questions — questions of theology and Church dogma will not go up. This was reported in the information and analytical Department of the Synodal Department for Church and society and the media of the ROC. Joint Declaration Pope and Patriarch will be political in nature, not theological, confirms a source in the Vatican.
The most disturbing of the ROC and the Vatican question now is a genocide of Christians in the middle East, this problem forced me to meet the Patriarch and the Pope right now, he added in .
At the crossroads tours
The choice of an airport as the place of meeting of Patriarch and Pope are not random. First, it is convenient, Patriarch Kirill flies on a tour of Latin America, and Papa is going on a visit to Mexico, said a close to the ROC of the source. Secondly, it was stressed to choose a neutral location so that nobody could accuse Church leaders that is stepping on a particular ground, it has lost its confessional position, the source explained .
No religious symbols except the crucifix, the room for the meeting will not, says the source . The Patriarch and the Pope will come out of two different doors and will proceed towards each other the way they want. It is possible that they “give each other fraternal kiss”, the source explained, is a traditional ritual of greeting the Patriarch with representatives of different religions.
Journalists will give 10-15 minutes for broadcast, and then the Patriarch and the Pope will be removed for talking face to face. How long the meeting is unclear, the source assumes that for about two hours.
Defined and translators from both sides. From the Vatican it will be visvaldas Kulbokas, who worked in Moscow as first Secretary of the Embassy of the Holy see. ROC to transfer will be an employee of the Church postgraduate and doctoral school named after Saint Cyril and Methodius Miguel Palacio says ROC is close to the source.
The overall agenda
The meeting was made possible not only by the geopolitical constructions of the Kremlin. The two churches really have a common agenda. Over the past year the Vatican has repeatedly made harsh statements on the fate of Christians in the middle East, pointing to numerous cases of persecution across the region, from Egypt, after “Arab spring” came under military dictatorship, to war-torn Syria.
In may 2015, Pope Francis met with the Coptic Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria tawadros II spoke about “the ecumenism of blood”, which connected the two churches after the murders and attacks on the Christian population of Egypt. The same position is shared by the ROC, no later than 5 February at a press conference the Chairman of the Department for external Church relations, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, Ilarion spoke of a “real genocide” of Christians in the middle East, North and Central Africa.
“Despite any differences in the face of religious fundamentalism and terrorism <…> Christians should be United” — quoted by Catholic News Agency hieromonk John (Guaita), Italian, working in the Department for external Church relations of the ROC MP.
Why not met before
So far the ROC has ruled out the possibility of a meeting of the Patriarch with the Pope, believing that there are no conditions. Main for a long time were “the problem of the Union”, that is converting Orthodox to Catholicism, including in Ukraine. “The Union has always been one of the most serious obstacles in relations between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
“On the basis of its ecclesiological models and proper understanding of the ways of restoration of Christian unity, the Roman Church over the centuries have made efforts to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism”, — said Metropolitan Hilarion in his interview to “Interfax-Religion” in September 2014.
A source in the Patriarchate on Friday recalled that “the question is not solved yet”, however, according to him, “there are new challenges for the Christian Church is not only Orthodox, but also Catholic”. The first challenge to the interlocutor called “the vulnerable situation of Christians in the middle East”, the second “destruction of traditional values not only in Orthodox but also in the Catholic world”.
The meeting between the two primates would have been impossible in Soviet times after the collapse of the USSR, when the Orthodox Church with hostility began to perceive any attempt by Catholics to gain a foothold on its “canonical territory”. The Vatican at least three times — twice under John Paul II and once with Benedict XVI — tried to arrange a meeting with the Primate of the ROC, but each time negotiations fell, reminiscent of the Catholic News Agency.
It is about the meeting went on for many years, “since at least the mid-2010s, intensive negotiations,” confirmed “RIA Novosti” the head of the Patriarchal press service Alexander Volkov priest, but it has not happened for a number of reasons, including those “related to the actions of the Greek Catholics in Ukraine.”
Predecessors Francis carefully dealt with Russia, unconditionally supporting the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, also John Paul II, as a pole, generally with a large suspicious of Moscow, Reuters reports. The current Pope Ukrainian Greek Catholics have even criticized for the use of the expression “fratricidal war”, as he described the events of the past two years in the Donbass. In Ukraine the events in the East of the country considered to be armed aggression by Russia.
Also the meeting of the two Church leaders would not have been possible in the period of high oil prices — but now Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to show that his country is not a pariah, says father Alexander Luci-Smith, a regular contributor to The British Catholic Herald. On the background of the deteriorating position of Russia in the foreign policy arena Putin has already twice, in November 2013 and June 2015, met with Pope Francis.
Use for Putin
Even the most dedicated fans of Francis acknowledged that the meeting of the two Church leaders could play into Putin’s hands — given how close the Russian government and the country’s largest Christian denomination. “If Putin believes that the Pope is, in order to maintain good relations with him, and it is in Russian interests, and the Patriarch, right, must think the same if we take into account that these two are singing from the same sheet,” says the father of Lucy-Smith. The head of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian unity cardinal Kurt Koch in a conversation with Reuters did not comment on this point, merely pointing out that Putin agree to a meeting.
Interested in meeting and Cyril himself, implies Catholic News Agency. In June of this year on the Greek island of Crete must first gather a pan-Orthodox Council, so the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church it is important to show that the Roman Bishop he maintains ties not less close than Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The latter has already met several times with Francis, being the first Patriarch of the Eastern Church who took part in his enthronement mass of the Pope.
In addition, the Pope and Patriarch Kirill could find a common language and in condemning moral relativism and the evils of modern culture, in particular the recognition of LGBT rights, although the current leader of the Catholics and adheres to more moderate views on this issue than his predecessors homophobic.
But the Pope can be seen in Moscow not only as the defender of traditional values — it for several years painting and the Russian President — as suggested by bi-Bi-si, in the Russian capital “see him as a leader who not necessarily instinctively agrees with the United States.” Repeated attacks Francis to address predatory capitalism have caused many wealthy American Catholics to distance themselves from the new Pope — resulting in noticeably drooped and flows of donations.
“The bridges are long and help the cause of peace, declared himself Francis Italian Corriere della Sera. — [Wall] needs to be demolished and not built. In any case, they are designed to collapse, one after another. Think about the Berlin wall. She seemed eternal, and then — boom — he fell”.