By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
HAVANA (CNS) — At long last, Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow embraced, kissing each other three times.
“Finally,” the pope told the patriarch Feb. 12 as they met in a lounge at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport. “We are brothers,” he told the patriarch.
Amid the clicking of cameras and multiple flashes, Patriarch Kirill was overheard telling the pope, “Things are easier now.”
“It is clearer that this is God’s will,” Pope Francis told him.
A flight of almost 12 hours capped months of intense negotiations and more than two decades of Vatican overtures to bring a pope and a Russian patriarch together for the first time.
Cuban President Raul Castro played host to the pope and patriarch, who was on a visit to Russian Orthodox communities on the island-nation. Pope Francis had a pastoral visit to Mexico planned for months; the stop in Havana was announced only a week before the meeting.
Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill signed a joint declaration that emphasized the things the two churches have in common.