VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis will meet with Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, in Cuba on Feb. 12 before arriving in Mexico, the Vatican announced on Friday.
This will be the first meeting between the heads of the two churches and is considered as a first step to a possible visit to Russia by the Pope.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi read on Friday a joint statement with the Patriarchate of Moscow which states that Francis and Kirill will meet on February 12.
“Their meeting will take place in Cuba, where the Pope will make a stop on his way to Mexico, and where the Patriarch will be on an official visit.”
This historic first meeting “will include a personal conversation at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport and will conclude with the signing of a joint declaration,” the statement announced.
This meeting comes “after long preparation, will be the first in history and will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches.”
Lombardi explained that the Pope will arrive at Jose Marti airport and receiving him will be President Raul Castro, who will accompany him to the presidential pavilion where Kirill will be awaiting him.
There will be a meeting between the two religious representatives and another between the delegations.
The private meeting between Francis and the Russian Patriarch will last about two hours and then there will be a ceremony of gifts and a joint statement will be signed and both will read a short speech.
Afterwards Castro will accompany the Pope to the steps of the plane to continue his journey towards Mexico, where he will arrive on the evening of Feb. 12.
The Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow confirmed on Friday that Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis will meet in Cuba, where they will address the situation of Christians in Middle East.