“The meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Havana marked the start of a new era in our relationships. Many decisions were taken on the occasion that we are still trying to act upon. So, we are working at the consequences of that meeting and the implementation of what the Pope and the Patriarch decided”. This is the answer given to SIR by Metropolitan Bishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, leader of the foreign relations department of the Patriarchate of Moscow, about the current state of dialogue and the chance that the two leaders of the Roman and Russian Churches may meet again, after Cuba. In Rome these days, as the guests of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), with a delegation of the Patriarchate of Moscow for a “three-day” pilgrimage in the city of the apostles Peter and Paul and of the first Christian martyrs, at a press conference in the CEI premises the Metropolitan Bishops told to the Italian Church and to the general secretary, mgr. Nunzio Galantino, about his concern for the state of persecuted Christians in Syria and Iraq. “We are very worried about the way things are in the Middle East and the mass exodus of Christians from that Region”, he reveals to SIR. “It is a genocide committed by the Islamic extremists. A situation that we denounce everywhere and whenever we can, not least to drive people to join forces and help persecuted Christians. We have launched a few initiatives to such effect but not so many as would be needed. We have a feeling of urgency, because, if Christians flee and if the conditions are not met for them to go back there one day, they will never go back at all”. Pope Francis too feels the same urgency, and in Bari he promoted a Day of Prayer for Peace in the Middle East. “I think – Hilarion says – that it’s a very important initiative. A lot of initiatives have been organised to such effect. I think that, as Churches, we should express our sympathy with persecuted Christians in the Middle East”. Then, the Metropolitan Bishop expressed great gratitude for carrying the relics of St Nicholas from Bari to Moscow and St Petersburg last year. “Over 2 million people came to worship them. It was the most important event in the relationships between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church”.