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Keys to understanding the Pope's meeting with Patriarch Kiril

2016-02-11

Cuba will host a historic meeting between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic church. Both churches have been separated for centuries. Choosing the Caribbean island as the host for this meeting shows a careful diplomatic approach.

FR. STEFANO CAPRIO
Expert in History and Russian culture
"Cuba is the ideal place for the meeting of the two leaders because it is a country that is outside of Europe, where the conflict began. And perhaps, quarrels could have taken place if it were hosted somewhere in Europe. Not only is Cuba a Catholic county, it also has a good relationship with Russia. Enough reason to have both leaders feeling at home.”

Father Stefano Caprio is a professor and expert in Russian history. He says that this is the opportune moment to approach this long standing strain between the churches. Especially, with a Pope like Francis.

FR. STEFANO CAPRIO
Expert in History and Russian culture
"The Russians felt they competed with Pope John Paul II because he was Polish. With him there were tensions because it was the post-communist period and there was fear that the West would invade them. With Benedict XVI there was a balance in both relationships. Now, with a non-European Pope, has created the right climate to avoid controversy.”

Together with the Russian, there are 14 other Orthodox Churches, each with their own hierarchical authority but they do share a doctrine and sacraments. All the patriarchs are treated as equals but, symbolically, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is considered "first among equals.” The Patriarchate of Moscow, with Patriarch Kirill as chairman, comprises of more than half of the Orthodox world.

FR. STEFANO CAPRIO
Expert in Russian history and culture
"Yes, we estimate that most are from Russia and the Ukraine. Most Russians are dispersed throughout the world, so there are between 250 and 350 million. Also, considering the Ukrainian diaspora around the world. Therefore, they make-up more than half of the Orthodox faith. The meeting represents a decisive moment for the Catholic Church and the Eastern Church.”

The meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and Pope Francis will last about two hours. Among the topics, they will discuss the situation of the persecution of Christians in the world.


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