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MOSCOW, February 11. /TASS/. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will for the first time visit Orthodox Christian communities in Latin American countries - Paraguay and Brazil.
The visit will start today and will last until February 22. The patriarch will also visit Cuba, this time as head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and meet with Pope Francis.
The meeting of the heads of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches is expected to be held for the first time in history. It is set for February 12, and the hall of Jose Marti International Airport near Havana, Cuba was chosen as the venue.
The meeting has been prepared for 20 years and was not held earlier due to principled differences connected with union (merger of the Orthodox and Catholic faiths). The activity of Uniates in Ukraine considerably complicates relations between the churches.
"Nevertheless, the situation in the Middle East, in North and Central Africa and some other regions, where extremists are involved in real genocide of Christian population, requires urgent measures and closer interaction between Christian churches," chairman of the Department of External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion said.
"In the current tragic situation, it’s necessary to move aside internal disagreements and unite efforts to save Christianity in regions where it is persecuted in a cruel way," Metropolitan Hilarion said.
Patriarch Kirill will arrive in Cuba at an invitation from President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba Raul Castro. They have known each other from the time when the patriarch was metropolitan and led the External Church Relations Department.
The church named in honor of Our Lady of Kazan icon in Havana was built under his supervision, and he sanctified it.
On Sunday, February 14, Patriarch Kirill will lead the Divine Liturgy in the Our Lady of Kazan Russian Orthodox church in Havana.
Patriarch Kirill will visit Paraguay at an invitation from Paraguayan President Horacio Manuel Cartes on February 14-15.
"The visit will become a tribute to the historical memory of representatives of Russian emigration, who in 1920-1930 made a considerable contribution to the development of Paraguay," Metropolitan Hilarion said.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church will continue his route in Brazil. The visit will start from a meeting with President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia. The patriarch will also hold a prayer service in front of the globally known statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
The meeting of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope of Rome Francis in Cuba is destined to protect contemporary Christianity throughout the world, Archpriest Dimitry (Sever), rector of the Church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, a parish of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ottawa, has told TASS.
"The main thing is that the Russian Orthodox Church and other Eastern Orthodox Churches have taken a unanimous decision that contemporary Christianity needs help as it is being destroyed all over the world and (its followers die) not in hundreds but in thousands," Archpriest Dimitry said.
During the meeting in Cuba the Russian patriarch and the Pope are expected to "put their signatures under a protocol on joint actions and to reach an agreement on providing assistance not only to Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches but to the entire Christianity."
"It should be pointed out that the meeting takes place in Latin America, not in Europe as Europe has plunged into atheism," he said.
"I am looking forward to the meeting with great expectations as in old times Christians gathered more often: a hundred years could not pass without a single common council," said his deputy, the Reverend Nikolay Melnik.
"When the notorious separation of the Churches happened, the dialogue ceased to continue and even the Eastern Orthodox Churches hardly ever convened councils. But it is necessary to gather in order to discuss meat-and-potatoes issues," he said.
"Evidently, the time has ripened for communication as our world has become too ‘hot’ and our task as Christians is to help this world - we must cure what should be cured, must restore what has been broken and must help those who need our help," the priest said recalling that "the Catholic branch of Christianity is the closest to the Eastern Orthodox faith in dogmatic theology."
Along with this, the Reverend Nikolay "is watchful" of any possible discussions on inter-penetration of both faiths - Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.
"As an Orthodox believer, I would not welcome any Catholic doctrine to intrude into our religion," he said. "But if you ask me about joint work, I would totally agree on its necessity as we all are Christians."
Russian Patriarch of Moscow Kirill and Pope Francis are due to meet at Jose Marti International Airport in the Cuban capital of Havana on February 12.
Canada is home to 25 patriarchal parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in three provinces - Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, with the largest of them in the cities of Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton.