02/05/2016, 18.30
RUSSIA – VATICAN
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For Russian Patriarchate, the “genocide of the Christian population” made the Kirill-Francis meeting urgent

Metropolitan Hilarion told a press conference that despite unresolved issues such like the expansion of the Greek Catholic Patriarchate in Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate hopes that the meeting "will open a new page in the relations between the two Churches”.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The meeting between a pope and a patriarch of Moscow has been made possible by the ongoing terrorist “genocide of the Christian population” in the Middle East, said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) at a press conference in Moscow. In view of the “genocide," Francis and Kirill could not but meet.

“[D]espite the remaining obstacles of [an] ecclesial nature,” he said, “it has been decided that a meeting should be urgently held between His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis of Rome. The problem of the persecution against Christians will become central at this meeting.”

Like Holy See Press Office director Father Lombardi, Hilarion explained that the first historic meeting between the Russian Orthodox Patriarch and the Pope would be held in Cuba and not in Europe, because the Caribbean island "matches all characteristics of such neutral territory”.

Cuba is also part of a “region where Christianity has been vigorously developing," whilst Europe is the continent where the two Churches have been in conflict, their relations strained by unsolved problems, like Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine.

For Hilarion, the decision by the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church to extend its mission “to the traditionally Orthodox lands in eastern and southern Ukraine” was one of the obstacles that prevented the historic meeting and remains a still outstanding issue. Yet, the metropolitan hopes that “holding the meeting in the New World [. . .] will open a new page in the relations between the two Churches”.

In response to a question about growing relations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis and the historically close link between political and religious power in Russia, the DECR chairman said that the dialogue between the two Churches has developed irrespective of relations between Russia and the Vatican as states.

In the upcoming meeting, the pope will be acting as a spiritual leader and not as a head of state. (NA)

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