02/23/2018, 10.23
RUSSIA - VATICAN
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Kirill: the meeting with Francis in Havana saved the world

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The conflict in Syria was likely to lead to a confrontation between Russians and Americans. With the Pope "we were able to agree on many important issues, above all by focusing on the dangerous situation that had arisen in Syria".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Meeting the King of Jordan Abdallah II in Moscow on February 15th, Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) recounted the dramatic circumstances that led to the organization of the Cuban meeting with Pope Francis on February 12th two years ago, to face the threat of nuclear confrontation in Syria.

According to the head of the Russian Church, "The military forces of Russia, together with the Syrian government forces, were doing their job with great success; but also the other countries, that had joined the coalition, were doing their job in their own way. The very fact of the presence of two powerful and heavily armed groups, which did not coordinate with each other, was a colossal challenge and risk in the face of possible widespread military confrontations. Any mistake - the patriarch continued - could have led to a direct confrontation between the representatives of the nuclear powers. When I perceived this danger, I proposed to Pope Francis to meet immediately. Although the Patriarch of Moscow had never in history met with the Pope of Rome. So we managed to agree on many important issues, first of all by focusing on the dangerous situation that had arisen in Syria ".

Kirill said that he found himself in tune with Francis on the fact that "to fight terrorism we must join together all those who are against terrorism, coordinating with each other ... you cannot extract the embers in your favor from this fire, it would be a very wrong and dangerous approach". In this sense, the patriarch added, conversing with King Abdallah, the fact that the most important countries in the fight against terrorism are unable to coordinate in joint actions, and in some cases the suspicion that there are those who exploit terrorism for political purposes. The hope of the head of the Russian Orthodox was that a single common front could be created in Syria between the Russians and the coalition led by the Americans, while this never happened.

With the king of Jordan, the patriarch recalled the long history of relations between Russians and Jordanians in the Middle East, of how much the Orthodox Church has the people of that region at heart. The threat of terrorism, he observed, "questions the survival of that multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious whole, at the same time endangering the whole world". The Russian Orthodox Church, as the majority church in a multinational country can make a fundamental contribution to inter-state and inter-religious dialogue, to unite people in a single front that eliminates fanaticism and extremism from the universal community; hence the idea of ​​meeting with Pope Francis.

Furthermore, the Russian Orthodox leadership illustrated the patriarchate's work of humanitarian support, which was the subject of a recent evaluation also with representatives of the Holy See, and in which the collaboration between religions is exemplified. "As the Orthodox in Russia have good relations with Muslims, with Jews and with all the others, we have proposed to join our relief efforts and help rebuild Syria, which in the  beginning we were doing alone. This increases the chances of effective help, and pushes many people to have more confidence in organized actions, "said Kirill, who believes that the more difficult phases of the armed confrontation have been overcome, as well as the search for mutual understanding between the peoples concerned, as in Soci during the Syrian National Dialogue Congress.

The day before the meeting with King Abdallah, Patriarch Kirill had also met the Palestinian leader Mohammed Abbas, to whom he had conveyed his conviction that one of the keys to the pacification of the region is the preservation of the special status of the city of Jerusalem, guaranteeing worthy conditions for the religious life of all the communities there.

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