Havana.- Pope Francis and Moscow orthodox Patriarch Kirill shared a historic embrace in the presidential room of José Martí airport in Havana, in what was the first meeting between a leader of the Roman Church and a Russian Patriarch.
“It is clear this is God’s will”, said the head of the catholic church at the beginning of the meeting with the orthodox leader, who responded: “things are easier now”.
Soon after 14.00 local time (19:00 GMT), the papal plane landed in the cuban airport and stationed in front of the appointment meeting room, only meters aways from where the Patriarch’s plane was already parked.
A the foot of the plane’s stairway, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was received by Cuban president Raúl Castro, who was accompanied by several religious and civil authorities, among them the island’s Apostolic Nuncio, Giorgio Lingua.
After the protocolary salutations and a hug, Castro and Francis walked less than a 100 meters to enter one of the rooms readied for protocol.
At exactly 14:26 (19:26 GMT), the Pope and the Patriarch shared a friendly embrace, nearly blinded by the countless flashes of the many photographers present. After brief salutations, Kirill I invited Francis to sit in some nearby chairs.
Behind them stood the flags of the Vatican and of the Orthodox Patriarchate. Kirill I wore black and white vestments, while the Pope was in his traditional white cassock.
Next to the Patriarch sat a translator from Russian to Spanish, as well as Metropolitan Hilarion, responsable for the Department of Ecclesiastical Relations of the Patriarchate.
Next to the catholic leader stood Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontific Counsel for the Unity of Christians of the Vatican, joined by another translator.
Somewhat withdrawn, both religious leaders exchanged a couple words while photographers immortalised the scene. “Finally”, Francis said, employing the word “brother” four times in his speech, and concluding by “we are brothers”.
Next to the Pope were his presents for the Patriarch: a case with a relic of Saint Cyril and a chalice. The Patriarch gave in return a small copy of the Virgin of Kazan. The moment lasted but few minutes and at 14:30 horas (19:30 GMT) the doors were shut.
Two hours were allocated for the private colloquium between both, after which took place the formal exchange of gifts, the signing of a common declaration (in Russian and Italian) and improvised speeches from both Francis and Kirill I