Christian brotherhood and unity were the focus of Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill when they met on Friday afternoon in Havana.
“We spoke as brothers,” Pope Francis said. “We have the same baptism. We are bishops. We spoke of our Churches.”
“We agreed that unity is created by journeying together,” he told a gathering of Catholic and Orthodox clergy and reporters after his meeting with the patriarch.
He characterized the Feb. 12 conversation as open and authentic. It focused on “a series of initiatives that I believe are viable and can be realized.”
The Pope praised the patriarch’s humility, brotherhood, and deep desire for unity.
The first-ever meeting between a Pope and a Patriarch of Moscow was held privately. Afterwards they signed a joint declaration that focused on several topics.
The declaration focused at length on anti-Christian persecution, especially in in the Middle East and North Africa. It lamented the hostilities in Ukraine. The declaration also voiced concern about the threat of secularism to religious freedom and the Christian roots of Europe.
Other topics of discussion included poverty, the crisis in the family, abortion and euthanasia. The Pope and the patriarch exhorted young Christians to live their faith in the world.
Patriarch Kirill characterized the private meeting as an open discussion “with full awareness of the responsibility of our Churches, for the future of Christianity, and for the future of human civilization.”
He said the conversation “gave us the opportunity to understand and hear the positions of the other.”
“The results of this allow me to assure you that the two Churches will continue to work closely together with Christians in all the world, and with full responsibility to work together against war, so that human life can develop in the entire world.”
Their conversation also aimed to strengthen “the bases of personal and family morality” through “the participation of the Church in the life of modern human society, that glorifies the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Pope told Patriarch Kirill before their private meeting “we’re brothers. It’s clear that this is the will of God.”
At the close of their remarks, Pope Francis thanked Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Cardinal Kurt Koch and their teams who had worked to organize the meeting. Metropolitan Hilarion heads the Russian Orthodox Church’s external church relations department, while Cardinal Koch heads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
“I do not wish to go forth from here without expressing my sense of gratitude for Cuba and for the Cuban people and for their president Raul Castro,” the Pope added. “I thank him for his acts of openness and readiness to give space for this, these talks of unity.”
He prayed: “Let all of this be done for the glory of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and for the good of the holy people of God, under the protection of the Holy Mother of God.”