VATICAN CITY (AP) — In an historic step to heal the 1,000-year schism that split Christianity, Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in an attempt to begin bridging the church’s East-West divide.
The Feb. 12 meeting between Francis and Patriarch Kirill was announced Friday by both churches. It will be the first-ever meeting between the leaders of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the largest in Orthodoxy.
Francis is due to travel to Mexico Feb. 12-18. He will stop in Cuba on the way and meet with Kirill at the Havana airport, where they will speak privately for about two hours and then sign a joint declaration, the Vatican said.
“This event has extraordinary importance in the path of ecumenical relations and dialogue among Christian confessions,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
The two churches split during the Great Schism of 1054 and have remained estranged over a host of issues, including the primacy of the pope and Russian Orthodox accusations that the Catholic Church is poaching converts in former Soviet lands. Read more here
Well? What do you think will be in the signed “Joint Declaration”? Apart, of course, from the inevitable apology to the Orthodox – that’s a given. The Catholic Church got it wrong at just about every point in history, so 1054 is unlikely to be the exception to what has become the “let’s bash the Catholic Church” rule. There’ll be the apology, there’ll be a statement of praise and thanks to God for all we can and should learn from the Orthodox (schisms are just perfect for fine-tuning Catholic doctrine) and.. well… what else?