A great sign of hope for our world


The fact that a Pope from Buenos Aires will meet a Patriarch from Moscow on the island of Cuba symbolizes the coming together of different worlds, different ways of thinking and seeing reality, and it is a great sign of hope for our world.

Some fights, some conflicts, last just a brief time, just for a minute, or an hour, or a day. The conflict, the schism, between the eastern and western Churches, between Constantinople and Rome, between the Orthodox and the Catholic worlds, has lasted a thousand years.  The Pope and Russian Patriarch never have met. So we are talking about something incredibly significant in its symbolism — the encounter of two traditions separated for a millennium.

Not every day does a thousand-year split begin to be overcome… That is from the religious side.

But current events emphasize and underline the importance of this meeting.  Culturally, economically, militarily, the present situation of the world is worrisome — filled with conflicts and dangers which require careful discussion and wise decisions in order to avoid great suffering and the shedding of blood. The task of religious leaders is of course primarily spiritual, but the spiritual has an impact on the material, and the words and actions of religious leaders can play a profound role in the political and social life of nations and societies.

The Middle East is in chaos. We know Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will sign a lengthy common statement, and that they will call in that statement for the protection of the Christian communities of the Middle East. So the first, primary result of this meeting will be the beginning of direct contact between two branches of Christianity divided for a thousand years. The second result of the meeting will be a call for peace and justice throughout the Middle East. This, too, is historic.

And it opens onto the third result of the meeting -- a call for Christians worldwide, even if they are divided into different Churches, to work together, to collaborate, on some of the other great issues of our time: protecting the life of the family, defending the life of the unborn, giving hope to the poor, the weak and the oppressed.

I have met Pope Francis a number of times. I have met Patriarch Kirill on a number of occasions. I have met the men who helped to prepare this meeting, and the men who will be translating for the two leaders when they meet. Knowing both men, I believe that both Francis and Kirill will find in this meeting a chance to initiate a friendship and a collaboration which will have world-historical importance. I think we may look back on this meeting as a turning point for human history, in the choice between a culture of death and a culture of life. The very fact of the meeting is, for me, a great sign of hope.

Robert Moynihan, Founder and Editor, Inside the Vatican magazine, founder and president of the Urbi et Orbi Foundation for Church unity