Pope, Russian patriarch embrace at historical Cuba meeting

Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill hold historic meeting in Cuba, calling for protection of Christians under assault in Middle East

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis hug each other at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, February 12, 2016.

Pope Francis and  Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill held a historic meeting in Cuba on Friday, calling on world leaders to protect persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

It was the first meeting of a Roman Catholic pope with a Russian Orthodox patriarch since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity split in the 11th Century.

The two dignitaries spoke for nearly two hours at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana.

In the beginning of the meeting the pontiff and patriarch embraced and kissed each other.

"I'm happy to greet you, dear brother," the patriarch said.

After the meeting they released a joint declaration saying that "in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated."

"Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed."   

"We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace," the declaration said.

The joint declaration did not touch on the agreement reached by the international powers that there would be a ceassation of hostilities in Syria on Thursday.

The historic meeting came less than a year after Pope Francis’s first trip Cuba in which he had a key role in breaking the ice between the leaders of the country and those of the US.

TRTWorld and agencies