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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

FRANCIS AND KIRIL TOGETHER UNDER THE TROPICAL SKIES




The pope in Mexico, the Russian patriarch in Cuba. Both on visits to these countries in mid-February. Ready to surprise the world, with a meeting 


by Sandro Magister



ROME, January 26, 2016 – “Everyone knows that he is the pope of surprises. If he wants to make a change to his schedule, he will certainly do so.”



So said Captain Domenico Giani, inspector general of the Vatican gendarmerie, at the end of a meticulous security inspection in Mexico, where Francis will visit from February 12 to 18.



And the “surprises” could include an exceptional one: a meeting between Pope Francis and Kirill, the Orthodox patriarch of Moscow and of all Rus’. The first meeting in history between the heads of the Churches of Rome and of the “Third Rome,” unexpectedly beneath tropical skies.



In fact, just when the pope is in Mexico, Kirill will be in Cuba, where he was invited personally by Raúl Castro in May of last year, during the Cuban president’s visit to Moscow.



On that occasion, Raúl Castro made a stop in Rome on his way back from Moscow and met with Francis. To speak with him about the pope’s visit to Cuba, scheduled for September of that year. But it is likely that he also wanted to talk with him about his conversations with Patriarch Kirill and with Russian president Vladimir Putin.



A meeting between the pope and the patriarch of Moscow - who governs two thirds of the 200 million Orthodox in the world - has been talked about for years, or rather for decades. Each time imagining it on neutral ground, like Vienna or Budapest. But never before today has the meeting been seen as feasible in the near future, not even after the exit from the stage of a pontiff “impossible” for the Russians like the Polish John Paul II.



After the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope, however, the hypothesis soon became less unrealistic. On November 30 of 2014, on the flight back from Rome after his trip to Turkey, Francis gave this response to a Russian journalist who had asked him precisely about his contacts with the patriarchate of Moscow:



“I told Patriarch Kirill, and he agreed, there is a willingness to meet. I told him: 'I'll go wherever you want, you call me and I’ll come;' and he too wants this.”



Francis did not conceal - in his further remarks to the Russian journalist - the obstacles that he saw in the way of the meeting. Which were principally two.



On the first, uniatism - which is the derogatory term that the Orthodox use to designate the union of the Eastern-rite Catholic communities with Rome - Bergoglio made it understood that he wants to turn the page:



“The Eastern Catholic Churches have a right to exist, but uniatism is a dated word. We cannot speak in these terms today. We need to find another way.”



Regarding the second obstacle, the war in Ukraine - the birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy but also the home of the most populous Byzantine-rite Catholic Church - the pope said instead that the one with the greatest difficulty was the patriarch of Moscow:



“There is the problem of war in these times. The poor man has so many issues there that the meeting with the Pope has been put on the back burner. Both of us want to meet and move forward.”



And in fact, on the question of Ukraine, Francis has always moved with actions and words carefully crafted so as not to gall the Moscow patriarchate and Putin’s policies in the region, even at the cost of sowing the strongest disappointment among the bishops, clergy, and faithful of the Catholic Church of that nation:



> Assaulted by Moscow and Abandoned by Rome (20.2.2015)



One effect has been that on several occasions Kirill has not failed to express public appreciation for the role of Pope Francis in the Ukrainian crisis:






So the Vatican and the patriarchate of Moscow began to study in secret the feasibility of a meeting between the two.



The secrecy was dictated by the intention of avoiding any reaction from forces in either camp that would be opposed to the meeting, with the risk of ruining it.



In the Catholic camp it is above all the Ukrainian Church that feels itself wounded by such a sensational cozying up of the pope to the patriarchate of Moscow, seen as inseparable from the great enemy and “invader,” Putin’s Russia.



But within the patriarchate as well there is very extensive opposition to “openness” to the Catholic Church, and therefore to the execrated West, symbolized by the embrace between the pope and the patriarch. 



One sign of this is the caution of the deputy in the patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, concerning rumors of a meeting between Francis and Kirill:






Another sign is the recent turbulence at the upper echelon of the patriarchate, with the expulsion of the head of religious information, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, an ultra-nationalist and theorist of Russia’s “holy war” in Syria:






In freeing himself of him, Kirill wanted to weaken the component of the Russian Church most closely connected to the autocratic Putin regime and to its military operations in Ukraine and the Middle East.



In fact, after working in close agreement with Putin for the reconstruction of Orthodoxy in Russia, Patriarch Kirill now wants to act with greater autonomy and acquire the credibility and charismatic profile of a world spiritual leader, of a Russian “Pope Francis,” partly in competition with the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, who is at home in the Vatican but in Russia is seen by many as a vassal of Western “uniform thinking.”



Both Francis and Kirill, therefore, have a strong interest in the realization of their meeting. And in its happening with that “surprise” effect which would present the world - and their respective opponents - with the fait accompli.



That the meeting between the two is near, very near in fact, has been hinted at by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the pontifical council for Christian unity.



In a January 23 interview with the journalist and fellow Swiss countryman Giuseppe Rusconi, Koch said:



“It is clear that Pope Francis ardently desires such a meeting. Kirill too is in agreement. Now the stoplight is not red anymore, but yellow.”



And he recalled as close to becoming reality the words that Francis said on the flight from Turkey to Rome:



"I told Kirill: 'I'll go wherever you want, you call me and I’ll come'."



In less than a month the two really will call each other. Francis from Mexico. Kirill from Cuba. For the historic meeting so longed for by both.


___________


The program of the pope’s journey to Mexico:





The interview with the head of the Vatican gendarmerie in the Mexican newspaper “El Heraldo,” reissued on January 20 by the Vatican website “Il Sismografo":






The January 23 interview in which Cardinal Kurt Koch gives the “yellow light” to the meeting between Francis and Kirill:






The press conference with Francis on the return flight from Turkey to Rome, November 30, 2014, with a response on the hoped-for meeting with the patriarch of Moscow:



> Press Conference of His Holiness


Excerpt on Pope Francis' Sermon at Vespers on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul
January 25th, 2016.

During the service, which came on the day of the announcement of Francis’ participation in the "ecumenical commemoration" in Sweden on 31 October, what the Holy Father calls “the ecumenism of blood” was evoked during the prayer for "Christian victims of persecution" so that they may feel the “solidarity of all humanity, but especially that of their brothers and sisters in faith."

The pope, who entered the Basilica through the Holy Door together with Metropolitan Gennadios and David Moxon, personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, delivered the homily for Second Vespers of the Solemnity of the Conversion of St Paul starting with the First Epistle of Peter (1 Peter 2: 9) in which God’s people are ‘Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord,’ which is the topic of the this year’s event.

“St Peter,” Francis said, “is writing to members of small and fragile communities, exposed to threats of persecution, and he applies to them the glorious titles attributed to the holy people of God: a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. For those first Christians, like today for all of us baptized Christians, it is a source of comfort and of constant amazement to know that we have been chosen to be part of God’s plan of salvation, put into effect through Jesus Christ and through the Church. “Why Lord? Why me? Why is it us?” Here we touch the mystery of mercy and of God’s choice. The Father loves us all and wants to save us all, and for this reason He calls some people conquering them through His grace, so that through them His love can reach all people. The mission of the whole people of God is to announce the marvellous works of the Lord, first and foremost the Pasqual mystery of Christ, through which we have passed from the darkness of sin and death to the splendour of His new and eternal life.

“In light of the Word of God which we have been listening to, and which has guided us during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we can truly affirm that all of us, believers in Christ, have been called to proclaim the mighty works of God. Beyond the differences which still separate us, we recognise with joy that at the origin of our Christian life there is always a call from God Himself. We can make progress on the path to full visible communion between us Christians not only when we come closer to each other, but above all as we convert ourselves to the Lord, who through His grace, chooses and calls us to be His disciples. And converting ourselves means letting the Lord live and work in us. For this reason, when Christians of different Churches listen to the Word of God together and seek to put it into practice, they make important steps towards unity.it is not only the call which unites us, but we also share the same mission to proclaim to all the marvellous works of God. Like St Paul, and like the people to whom St Peter is writing, we too cannot fail to announce God’s merciful love which has conquered and transformed us.

“While we are moving towards full communion among Christians, we can already develop many forms of cooperation to aid the spread of the Gospel. By walking and working together, we realise that we are already united in the name of the Lord.

“In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we must always keep in mind that there cannot be an authentic search for Christian unity without trusting fully in the Father’s mercy. We ask first of all for forgiveness for the sins of our divisions, which are an open wound in the Body of Christ. As Bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to ask for mercy and forgiveness for the behavior of Catholics towards Christians of other Churches which has not reflected Gospel values. At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if they, today or in the past, have been offended by other Christians. We cannot cancel out what has happened, but we do not want to let the weight of past faults continue to contaminate our relationships. God’s mercy will renew our relationships.

“I cordially greet also the young Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox students who are here in Rome with the support of the Committee for Cultural Collaboration with the orthodox churches, working through the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, as well as the students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey who are visiting Rome to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Church.

“Dear brothers and sisters, let us unite ourselves with the prayer that Jesus Christ prayed to his Father: “May they be one, so that the world may believe”. Unity is the gift of mercy from God the Father. In front of the tomb of St Paul, the apostle and martyr, kept here in this splendid Basilica, we feel that our humble request is sustained by the intercession of the multitudes of Christian martyrs, past and present. They replied generously to the call of the Lord, they gave faithful witness with their lives to the wonderful works that God has done for us and they already enjoy full communion in the presence of God the Father. Sustained by their example and comforted by their intercessions, we make our humble prayer to God.”

REPLY OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH TO THIS RUMOUR
my source: Pravmir.com
“The Patriarch and the Pope’s Latin American visit programs do not intersect,” the Russian Orthodox Church’s spokesman for inter-Christian relations, Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov) told the agency on Tuesday, commenting on recent rumors in the foreign press about a possibility of such a meeting during the two church leaders’ visits to that region in February.

“The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church and the head of the Roman Catholic one will be visiting completely different countries, albeit on the same continent,” the spokesman said.


Concurrently, he recalled that the subject of a meeting between the Moscow Patriarch and the Pope is raised in the media from time to time and was repeatedly commented upon by the Church officials who said that “a discussion of its possibility is invariably present on the agenda of the bilateral relations, but no specific time and place of such a meeting have yet been stipulated.”

JANUARY 27, 2016
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