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Pope Francis and Kirill: three hours in the isle of Cuba to efface centuries of distance and division

“It is the first time after centuries that the Pope will be meeting the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, so it is an event that, along the path of ecumenism and dialogue between Christian confessions, is extraordinarily important”. Not just formal words, those spoken by the director of the Vatican Newsroom, father Federico Lombardi, as he presented to the press the meeting between Pope Francis and the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, in Cuba on 12th February. Just three hours overall in the Caribbean isle, to efface centuries of distance and division. The Pope decided to leave from Rome for Mexico a few hours earlier. The Pope’s airplane was supposed to take off at 12.30 pm but it will take off at 7.45 am, Italian time, instead, and after a 12 hours’ flight Pope Francis will be welcomed by the nuncio and by president Raul Castro in Cuba. At 02.15 pm (local time), Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Kirill at the airport. The two will go to a room specially set up for a two hours’ private talk. The Metropolitan Bishop Hilarion, president of the department for foreign affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow, and cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians, will be there too. After an exchange of gifts, the Pope and the Patriarch will go to a nearby room to sign a joint statement before the press and the Cuban TV that will film all of the event. Father Lombardi spoke of an “extensive text”. At that point, the Patriarch and the Pope will give some short speeches in Russian and Spanish as “spontaneous and personal expression of the feelings” they feel. At 05.00 pm, Patriarch Kirill will take his leave of Pope Francis and president Castro will see the Pope off at the airport, to fly over to Cuba at 5.30 pm.

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