February 8, 2016
While problems remain in the relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches, both see protection of persecuted Christians as a priority, the synodal Department for External Church Relations said ahead of the upcoming meeting between the patriarch and the pope.
"If we are talking of the meeting between His Holiness Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, this is a meeting between two brightest and most significant leaders of the Christian world, the leaders of the largest Christian communities. There were many years of thorough preparations for the meeting," Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations secretary for inter-Christian relations Hieromonk Stephan (Igumnov) told Interfax-Religion.
While it cannot be said that problems that hindered this meeting have finally been solved, "today the circumstances have formed, as a result of which it is no longer possible to postpone the meeting," he said.
At issue is the situation of Christians in the Middle East, in North Africa, in a number of other regions of the world, and the meeting between the patriarch and the pontiff "will focus primarily and precisely on this problem," he said.
Persecutions "against our brothers today is a pain shared by all Christians, prompting to jointly stand up for them," he said.
The agenda of the two Churches includes a whole host of other topics on which they share views: the problem of preserving the traditional moral values, family protection, and many other issues, the priest said.
"But the main reason today is the need to make a joint statement in support of the Christians in those regions where they are persecuted," he said.
It was reported that Patriarch Kirill and Pope Frances will be meeting in Havana on February 12. This will be the first ever meeting between a Russian patriarch and a pope. It has been about 20 years in the planning.
The central topic of the meeting will be persecutions against Christians in the Middle East. A joint declaration will be signed after the meeting.