A “declaration that virtually embraces the entire world, that lays bare the wounds of the world and at the same time offers possible cures”—that is how Peter Humeniuk, Russia expert of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), described the document that Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill jointly signed during their historic meeting on Feb. 12, in the Cuban capital of Havana.
All thirty points of the declaration are “each taken by themselves of the greatest relevance,” the official said. However, Humeniuk believes that a few points were treated with special consideration, as had already become apparent before the meeting. This was especially true with regard to the persecution of Christians and the role of the Christian family. This was “not surprising,’ but the unanimity of this declaration, however, transformed these items into “true joint guidelines.”
Related: Quick summary of the document.
Humeniuk urged Christians to “not forget the sheer number of believers that are represented by the two church leaders. These also include numerous Christians – clergy as well as laypersons – who hold positions of responsibility and who have accepted the path laid down by this joint document as a guide for their everyday work.” At the same time, the document sets a “signal for other religions and denominations and for all people of good will.”
The official insisted that doubtlessly something spiritual also took place, something that was wrought by the Holy Spirit. He said: “One could almost say: Perhaps we have just experienced the globalisation of the spiritual. Globalisation is a term that often has negative connotations, but in this case, in the very best sense of the word something has happened that reaches across the entire globe. In view of the globalisation of suffering that we are experiencing in this day and age, it is obvious that the answers and reactions also have to be global.”
Humeniuk said that there is a sincere desire to “re-establish the unity willed by God” and that the meeting of Pope and Patriarch will also doubtlessly have a positive effect on the Catholic Church in Russia.
This was also emphasized by Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation, in an interview with CAN. He said: “I am deeply thankful for this meeting and see a desire to gather rich fruit for the good of church unity in Christ.” Archbishop Pezzi had recently said that Catholics and Orthodox bearing witness together “brings us closer to the hoped-for unity” and that there had been a “strong” desire for a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow, “We are on the right path,” the prelate said.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)