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February 12, 2016, Friday — Today’s Meeting Between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Cuba

The Day’s Schedule

Here is the schedule for the meeting today between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Friday, 12 February 2016

7:45 a.m.

Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Havana (Cuba)
Greeting to journalists during the flight Rome-Havana

Note: The plane was about 45 minutes later than this schedule in leaving this morning, due to an Easy Jet landing at Fiumicino Airport which required the delay by air traffic controllers. It is not yet clear whether the pilot will make up this time, or whether the following schedule may be delayed by a few moments.

14:00 (2 p.m.)

Arrival at “José Martí” International Airport of Havana

14:15 (2:15 p.m.)

Private meeting with H.H. Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

16:30 (4:30 p.m.)

Signing of the Joint Declaration
[Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]

Note: Therefore, the meeting between Francis and Kirill will last for 2 hours and 15 minutes.

17:10 (5:10 p.m.)

Farewell between His Holiness Kirill and the Holy Father

Note: Therefore, the total time the two will be together is from 2:15 to 5:10, just under 3 hours.

17:30 (5:30 p.m.)

Departure from the International Airport of Havana for Mexico City

19:30 (7:30 p.m.)

Arrival at the “Benito Juárez” International Airport of Mexico City

Two Points to Note:

1. There is no mention in this schedule of any moment of common prayer. Spokesmen have noted that this meeting is not taking place in a church, or a home, but in an airport hangar. It does not mean that an airport hangar — or anywhere on this earth — cannot be a place of prayer. But it does mean that this encounter, even in its location, seems to have the character of a meeting of two men “on the way.” It will go down in history as the “airport meeting.”

2. The meeting has generated enormous press attention. Some have praised the initiative, for what is not to praise about two leaders whose communities have been divided for nearly a thousand years meeting for the first time. Others have cautioned that it is a “political” meeting, for show, and not for substance. But the “show” is already the substance. The photo alone of the two men together is an historical marker that will remain. And the document that will be signed — which we know from a statement the other day by Metropolitan Hilarion, who revealed the fact to journalists, was still being worked on late into the night three days ago — will have to be read carefully. It will be the key “substance” of this meeting. We know the document will be “lengthy,” and we know it has been worked on for weeks, if not months, and now we know that it was still being worked on up until the very last minute. So it will be this text that will be important. The text will be signed at 4:30 p.m. and will come out immediately in many languages.

For my part, I am deeply moved that these two men, despite the weight of the past — despite all concerns and cautions from advisors and onlookers that the meeting may be misunderstood, or even counter-productive, despite warnings that it may even serve the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite criticisms that such a meeting cannot settle by itself many very important issues — are willing to risk much in order to meet face to face.

It is a sign that in history, men can choose to do something.

They can meet, talk, reason together.

This, to me, is the significance of this meeting.

But it is the content of the common statement that I am waiting to see.

Perhaps there will be something in it that will surprise us.

Please Note: The Vatican has asked for the prayers of all Catholics, and of all Christians, for the success of this meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Bishop of Rome.

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What is the glory of God?

“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.

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