The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, and Pope Francis signed a joint declaration after their first historic meeting in Havana, Cuba. They called on world leaders to prevent Christians in the Middle East from “being completely exterminated” and to help refugees from those regions.
“Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa, whole families, villages, and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated,” the declaration stated.
The two also discussed the relations between the Churches and the problems of their believers, in addition to sharing views on the progress of human civilization.
Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis also discussed their concerns over “the crisis in the family in many countries,” according to the document. Both have expressed “regret” that “other forms of cohabitation” are being “placed on the same level” as a union between a man and a woman.
At the same time the two said they were concerned that “the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.”
“Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family … The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift.”
“We are brothers, at last,” were the first words Pope Francis addressed to his counterpart when they met, TASS news agency reports.
“Now, it will be easier,” responded Patriarch Kirill.
“It is evident that this meeting is God’s will,” said the Pontiff, in his native Spanish.
“We are meeting at the right time and at the right place. I want to emphasize once again that it became possible with God’s will,” Patriarch Kirill told the Pontiff.