Pope and Patriarch appeal for reconciliation and unity

Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill have issued a deep and thorough call for reconciliation and unity amongst their two traditions.

The two leaders met for 135 minutes in Cuba on February 12.

It was the first meeting of this kind for nearly 1000 years.

A joint statement was issued, in which Francis and Kirill declared: “We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world.”

“We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be ‘in harmony with one another’,” they stated.

Pope Francis said he and Kirill spoke freely at the meeting.

The Pontiff said the discussions were tantamount to “a conversation of brothers”, where each “spoke with frankness” about their worries and concerns.

Later, Francis also appeared to downplay some of the more strongly worded sections of the joint statement, saying: “It is not a political declaration . . . it is a pastoral declaration.”

The 30-paragraph statement dealt with several controversial political issues, including: the continuing violence in Ukraine; persecution of Christians in the Middle East; issues of marriage and family life; and the practices of abortion and euthanasia.

At the beginning of their declaration, the Christian leaders wrote that they hope their meeting may be an example to the world.

Speaking of the changes facing humanity, Francis and Kirill wrote: “Human civilisation has entered into a period of epochal change.”

“Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response,” they stated.

The statement devoted six paragraphs to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, calling on the international community “to act urgently” to prevent even more Christians from fleeing the region.

It also mentioned the violence in Iraq and Syria, and strongly denounced terrorism and the use of religion to justify violence.


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