For the first time in history, the Patriarch of Moscow will meet with the Pope of Rome at an airport in Cuba. On 12 February, the Roman Curia, not the MP, made the first announcement that Pope Francisco Bergoglio would meet with Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev. This would be the first-ever meeting of the First Hierarch of the MP and the Roman Pontiff. In general, there’ve only been about a dozen meetings between Orthodox patriarchs and Roman popes in the entire history of Christianity. We know that the prelates will meet at José Martí International Airport in Havana. In February, both hierarchs shall visit Latin America, which is a convenient excuse for the historic meeting. However, both Moscow and the Vatican confirmed that this wasn’t a spontaneous meeting… there was preparation over the past few months. [The two First Hierarchs] will talk privately and sign a joint declaration. Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, a Vatican spokesman, said, “The Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate hope that the meeting would be a sign of hope for all people of good will. We call upon all Christians to pray that the meeting bears fruit”.
Now, it’s clear that threats impact the entire Christian world. Often, terrorists in Africa and the Middle East kill people on religious grounds. In Syria, ISIS (banned in Russia) destroys entire cities inhabited by Christians. Sergei Perevesentsev, a Russian university professor, said, “Modern Christians experience persecution unprecedented in history. In recent years, 200 million Christians suffered violence and outright murder”. Last summer, President V V Putin spoke about a joint struggle against pseudo-Islamic terrorists with the Pope during a state visit to the Vatican.
The paths of two churches… Catholic and Orthodox… diverged almost a thousand years ago. The main reason for the split was the Vatican dogma that the Pope was supreme over all other hierarchs and that all others should confess his supremacy. In Orthodoxy, the Pope of Rome is only the head of one Local Church, equal to all other First Hierarchs. These differences remain, but other factors bring the two groups together. Fr Kirill Gorbunov, a priest of the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Moscow, said, “Catholics and Orthodox are Christians who believe in one God; that fact should be supreme for us. I’m sure that this would influence what happens at this meeting”.
The last planned meeting of the Patriarch and the Pope was due in 1997. Patriarch Aleksei Ridiger and Pope John Paul II Wojtyła were to hold talks in Austria, but the situation in the Ukraine proved a stumbling block. Rather, the antics of Ukrainian Greek Catholics (more commonly called Uniates) nixed the meeting. Uniates ape Orthodox ritual, but bow down before papal supremacy. After the collapse of the USSR, Uniates began to seize MP churches and property, which made negotiations under such conditions impossible. However, now, it’s clear that it’s time for contact between the two most influential religious leaders in the Christian world.
5 February 2016
Do bear in mind that Zvezda is an official media outlet… it’s the information arm of the Minoborony. There are three factors in play here. Firstly, they cut Black Bart out of this shindig. This, in itself, negates his claim to be the “Orthodox Pope” (a claim widely heard in EP circles). Indeed, it points up the fact that Kirill is the effectual “First-Amongst-Equals” in Orthodoxy and that Bart is nothing but a pipsqueak Ruritanian leader of a Rotten Borough Patriarchate. Secondly, I expect no movement on the Uniate issue. That’s why the meeting is nothing but a private chat in an airport conference room, no doubt. It’s NOT the media extravaganza that the Roman Curia lusted for. Thirdly, expect Kirill and Francisco to sign some sort of paper attacking terrorism, along with gassy bullshit about interfaith relations. Shall it be a real breakthrough? No. However, it’s a good thing whenever people sit down to talk with one another instead of shouting at one another. Kirill upstaged Bart… it’s another move in the Great Game… shall this strengthen Kirill’s hand at the upcoming all-Orthodox Sobor? Time will tell us…