Pope, Russian Patriarch Talks 'Important' Despite Unity Lack

© Sputnik / Sergei Pyatakov / Go to the mediabankChristmas Liturgy at Christ the Savior Cathedral
Christmas Liturgy at Christ the Savior Cathedral - Sputnik International
The upcoming meeting between Catholic Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill will be important despite the existing schism between the two branches of Christianity, the director of the National Service for Christian Unity (SNUDC) of the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) said in a statement obtained by Sputnik.

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill are expected to meet on February 12 in Cuba in what will be the first such meeting since Christianity split into two sects in the 11th century. It will conclude with the signing of a joint declaration.

Father Emmanuel Gougaud, the head of SNUDC of the CEF, the national episcopal conference of the Roman Catholic bishops of France, said the so-called ecumenical dialogue promoting Christian unity globally has started only recently and the sects need time to bridge the centuries-old divide.

"The separation between Catholics and the Orthodox [Church] has lasted for centuries while the ecumenical movement is very recent. Time should pass therefore to build up gradually. If the joint statement does not seem to be of great ecumenical density, the simple fact of the meeting is important," Father Gougaud asserted.

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He said the historic face-to-face meeting between the leaders of the two Churches should be seen as a continuation of the fraternal relationship between the two apostles Peter and Andrew, the first bishops of Rome and Constantinople.

"There is a very important proximity, theological, ecclesiological and ethical between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church," the cleric continued, adding that Pope Francis wishes to maintain close links with all believers in Christ.

The two church leaders will meet at the airport in Havana, where Patriarch Kirill is due on an official visit. Pope Francis will land in Cuba for a stopover on his way to Mexico. They are expected to discuss the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

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