Russian Patriarch arrives in Cuba to meet Pontiff, discuss Middle East crisis

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Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has arrived in Cuba for a historic meeting with Pope Francis during which they are expected to sign a declaration and talk about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

Upon his arrival, the Patriarch addressed the citizens of Cuba, sending greetings from “all the people of historical Rus’.

I wish prosperity to the Cuban people and happiness to everyone. May the Lord be with you with his grace and his love,” he said.

The leaders of the two branches of the Christian Church will meet at Havana’s international airport in Cuba – a neutral country suitable for such a meeting. The religious summit has been in preparation for two decades by both Moscow and the Vatican.

The Church heads are set to discuss the persecution of Christians in conflict zones, particularly in the Middle East.

The Holy See called the upcoming tête-à-tête a “sign of good faith” and called on all Christians “to pray to God to bless the meeting,” the Vatican said in a statement earlier in February.

For the Russian Orthodox Church, the meeting will be the most significant foreign affairs event since it reunited with the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia after a 90-year split in 2007.