VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis departed on Friday from Rome for his first trip as pontiff to Mexico, but first he will make a stopover in Havana where he will hold a historic meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill.
The pope departed by plane this morning from Rome's Fiumicino airport bound for Cuba, where he will be welcomed by President Raul Castro, who will accompany him to meet Kirill.
The encounter between Francis and Kirill at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana will be the first held between the heads of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
This meeting "will be the first in history and will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches," announced the Vatican on Feb. 5, adding that the meeting will conclude with the signing of a joint declaration.
Later, the pope will board a plane to land hours later in Mexico City, where he will be received by its president, Enrique Pena Nieto.