Pope Francis has landed in Cuba for a brief visit before the start of his papal visit to Mexico. The Cuba trip was a relatively last-minute addition to His Holiness' itinerary, and while visiting the island nation he had a historic meeting with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is the first meeting between the two leaders in 962 years.
The meeting was announced last week, on February 5.
Prior to the meeting, the Bishop of Rome tweeted that Wednesday was a "day of grace" and that the meeting was a "gift from God." He also asked for prayers.
Today is a day of grace. The meeting with Patriarch Kirill is a gift from God. Pray for us.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) February 12, 2016
The meeting is expected to last for two hours, and is private, but Catholic News Service tweeted images of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill greeting each other. Pope Francis told Patriarch Kirill "we are brothers."
Pope Francis tells Patriarch Kirill: "Somos hermanos" (We are brothers) pic.twitter.com/AYCwWhahi4— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) February 12, 2016
While Wednesday marked the first meeting between the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and the pope in nearly a millennia, Pope Francis has been active in his efforts to establish communication with the Orthodox churches. In 2013, Pope Francis extended an invitation to Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I to attend his papal inaugural Mass, which he did. This marked the first time an eastern patriarch had attended a papal installation since Constantinople split from Rome in 1054.
While it's uncertain as to what will come from this meeting, it's certainly a positive step forward.
Following the meeting, the Vicar of Christ will continue on to Mexico, where he is expected to stay until February 17th.