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The Catholic and Orthodox churches meeting will bring the heads of the Russian and Catholic churches together for the first time since Christianity split.

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By Ann Tyller | February 12, 2016 6:30 pm

Popular Convention dates the split of the Catholic and Orthodox churches to the so-called Great Schism in 1054, when the western pope excommunicated the head of the Eastern Church in Constantinople — now Istanbul — over differences in worship practices.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches meeting will bring the heads of the Russian and Catholic churches

The Catholic and Orthodox churches meeting will bring the heads of the Russian and Catholic churches

The split solidified into centuries of deep hostility, with the two sides differing over a number of doctrinal issues, most importantly the pope’s status as Christianity’s supreme authority on earth.

Francis is to meet Patriarch Kirill for two hours during a brief stop in Havana’s Jose Marti airport en route to Mexico. The pontiff will bring a message of solidarity with the victims of drug violence, human trafficking and discrimination to some of that country’s most violent and poverty-stricken regions.

Meeting Havana has been hailed in some Catholic circles as an important ecumenical breakthrough. Nevertheless, Francis has come under criticism for essentially allowing himself to be used by a Russia eager to assert itself among Orthodox Christians and on the world stage at a time when the country is increasingly isolated from the West.

Patriarch Kirill, and Pope Francis signed a joint declaration after their first historic meeting in Havana, Cuba. They called on world leaders to prevent Christians in the Middle East from “being completely exterminated” and to help refugees from those regions.

Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa, whole families, villages, and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated,” the declaration stated.

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