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MOSCOW, February 5. /TASS/. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will meet with Pope Francis in Cuba this month, the chairman of the department for external church relations told reporters in Moscow on Friday.
"Taking into consideration that the patriarch will visit Latin America on February 11-22 and the trip of the Pope to Mexico will take place at the same time, their meeting will be held in Cuba," Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk said.
A joint statement released by the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow has said the meeting will take place on February 12 "after a long preparation." The event will "mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches," it says.
"It will include a personal conversation at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, and will conclude with the signing of a joint declaration," the document reads.
The historic meeting, the first between a pope and a Russian patriarch, will discuss the problems of persecution of Christians in the Middle East and other regions, the senior Orthodox cleric said.
"The issue of persecution of Christians will become a central one at this meeting," the metropolitan said. The sides will also "sign a joint declaration," he confirmed.
Neither Russia nor the Vatican had been considered as a venue for the meeting. "Cuba satisfies everyone, this is that part of the region that develops dynamically," he said.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia will make his first pastoral visit to Latin America. His route will run through Cuba’s Havana, Paraguay’s Asuncion, Chile’s Punta Arenas, Brazil’s Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.