The persecution of Christians in the Middle East and in parts of Africa is the impetus for the historic meeting between Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis that will take place in Cuba next week.
This was the explanation given today at a press conference by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Hilarion explained why a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch has never been possible, despite years of negotiations, offering his summary of the continued tensions between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.
He pointed to “the problem of Unia” as a “never-healing blooding wound that prevents the full normalization of relations between the two Churches.”
These tensions involve the “Uniates,” particularly issues in Ukraine, which have worsened recently with the conflict there.
“Nevertheless,” Metropolitan Hilarion said, “the situation as it has developed today in the Middle East, in North and Central Africa and in some other regions, in which extremists are perpetrating a real genocide of the Christian population, has required urgent measures and closer cooperation between Christian Churches. In the present tragic situation, it is necessary to put aside internal disagreements and unite efforts for saving Christianity in the regions where it is subjected to the most severe persecution.”
He said the Russian Orthodox Sacred Bishops’ Council “called to make the year 2016 a year of special efforts to be taken in this respect.”
“Therefore,” he continued, “despite the remaining obstacles of ecclesial nature, it has been decided that a meeting should be urgently held between His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis of Rome. The problem of the persecution against Christians will become central at this meeting.”
The metropolitan also explained the location of the meeting:
“Throughout the recent years, numerous proposals have been coming in concerning the venue of such a meeting. However, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, from the very beginning, did not want it to take place in Europe, since it is with Europe that the grave history of divisions and conflicts between Christians is associated. The coincidence of the date of Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Latin American countries with that of the Pope of Rome’s visit to Mexico has become an opportunity for holding the meeting in the New World, and we hope that it will open a new page in the relations between the two Churches. Along with the main topic – the situation of Christians in the Middle East and other regions in which they are subjected to persecution, the talk will also involve the pressing problems of the bilateral relations and international policy. The meeting will be concluded with the signing of a joint statement.”
On the Net:
More from the press conference: https://mospat.ru/en/2016/02/05/news127872/