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Foreign media: Pope, Russian Patriarch meet in historic encounter

The meeting may help mend relationships between the two churches after Christianity split 1,000 years ago

BRUSSELS, February 13. /TASS/. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and Pope Francis have met in Cuba in an historic encounter that may help mend relationships between the two churches after Christianity split 1,000 years ago, foreign media reported on Saturday.

The two religious leaders who held two-hour talks at Havana airport on Friday said in a joint declaration that their encounter would inspire Christians worldwide to pray for full unity of the churches.

"Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re-establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed," the declaration said.

"May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervor for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!" the declaration said.

The encounter between the Russian Orthodox Church head and the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church marked an unprecedented act in the history of the nearly 1,000-year schism that divided Christianity, the Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported.

"Their talk sealed efforts to bring closer the relationships between Rome and the Russian Orthodox Church," the paper said.

Meanwhile, the influential French newspaper Le Figaro reported that the meeting between the Russian Orthodox Church head and Pope Francis had expedited the course of history.

"There are instances when history unusually accelerates its pace, closing gaps. Thus, a hearty handshake, smiles and several seconds of the encounter in Havana were enough to melt away whole centuries of the past conflict between the churches," the paper said.

Le Figaro called as historic the encounter between the Pope and Patriarch Kirill that had been held "in an unprecedentedly hearty atmosphere."

The encounter "showed the signs of warming relationships between the two churches and its importance for further ties between Orthodox and Catholic Christians," the paper said.

However, "it will take a lot of time to mend the wounds" while a joint declaration signed by the two religious leaders was "a major achievement," Le Figaro said.

The historic encounter of the Russian Orthodox Church head and Pope Francis hit the headlines of newspapers in Italy.

All local publications started their stories on the encounter with the pope’s first exclamations: "Finally! We are brothers."

"Three kisses on the cheek under the Russian tradition were followed by a strong embrace on Cuba that has become an island of unity," La Repubblica reported.

Meanwhile, Corriere della Sera wrote about the "embrace opening a new dialog between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill and an historic moment for the two Christian churches divided by the 1,000-year split."

The meeting between the Russian Orthodox Church head, Patriarch Kirill, and Pope Francis symbolizes stronger and closer relationships between the two churches, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo wrote.

"Cuba has again become a venue, which has attracted the attention of the entire international community," the paper said.

"The historic embraces of Francis who is the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics and Kirill who is the patriarch for 165 million Orthodox believers may mean deeper convergence [between the two churches] and open the way for the pope’s visit to Russia," the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, the Spanish newspaper La Razon noted that the "embraces [of the patriarch and the pope] have put an end to the 1,000-year disagreements between the two churches."

"The historic encounter ended with speeches by Francis and Kirill who expressed joy over the start of a new stage [in relations]," the newspaper reported.