When Pope Francis met Patriarch Kirill
Marking the first ever meeting between the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a pontiff, Patriarch Kirill met Pope Francis for a brief meeting at Havana's airport in Cuba. The 2 leaders said that they were ready to do everything to resolve their historical differences. They said that the plight of Christians in Iraq and Syria was the most important concern.
The Great Schism of 1054
The Great Schism of 1054, was an event that led to the final separation of the Eastern Christian Churches (led by the patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius) and Western Christian Churches (led by Pope Leo IX).
Differences between the two Churches
The Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church have remained at odds regarding a few issues since the Great Schism of 1054. The primary issue of contention has been the primacy of the Roman Catholic Pope and Russian Orthodox Church accusations that the Roman Catholic Church was poaching converts in Russia. A Pope-Patriarch meeting had been historically impossible till now.
First meeting in almost a 1000 years
The mutual excommunications between the Eastern and Western Churches in 1054, were lifted in 1964 when Pope Paul VI met with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. However, a meeting with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch is yet to be held. The Holy See and the Moscow Patriarch said in a statement that the meeting "will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches."
Pope Francis agrees to meet Russian Orthodox leader
Pope Francis had been working to reconcile the divisions in Christianity since his papacy in 2013. In November 2014, he had declared to Russian Orthodox church's Patriarch Kirill, "I'll go wherever you want. You call me and I'll go."
Russian Orthodox Church spokesman explains the situation
The spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, the Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, stated, "The situation as it has developed today in the Middle East, in North and Central Africa and in some other regions, in which extremists are perpetrating a real genocide of the Christian population, has required urgent measures and closer cooperation between Christian churches." The Churches are poised to settle long-standing differences.
Pope to meet Russian Orthodox Church leader
Pope Francis is poised to meet Russian Orthodox Church leader, Patriarch Kirill, on February 12th in a meeting which would be "the first in history". Reportedly, the meeting is a result of "intersection of the itineraries", as both the leaders are scheduled to visit Latin America next week. The two religious leaders are expected to meet with President Raul Castro at Havana's airport.
Pope Francis and China
Pope Francis, having proved himself as a diplomatic actor in the world stage, is pushing for restoration of diplomatic ties with China. Pope Francis has also spoken of his desire to be the first Pope to visit Mainland China.