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Orthodox Church

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Pope Francis has met Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill at Havana airport to hold historic talks.

Both leaders have called for restored Christian unity between the two churches.

The meeting was the first between a Pope and a Russian Church head since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity split in the 11th Century.

In a joint declaration, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill also urged the world to protect Christians from persecution in the Middle East.

The two-hour talks took place during Pope Francis’s stopover on his way to Mexico. Patriarch Kirill is visiting Cuba, Brazil and Paraguay.

The two leaders embraced and kissed each other at the start of the meeting on February 12.

“I’m happy to greet you, dear brother,” the Russian Church leader said.Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Havana

“Finally,” Pope Francis said.

At a news conference after the meeting, Patriarch Kirill said the discussions were “open” and “brotherly”, while Pope Francis described them as “very sincere”.

“We hope our meeting contributes to the re-establishment of this unity wished for by God,” their joint declaration said.

The document called on the world community to defend Christians, saying that “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.”

“Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed.”

Patriarch Kirill has been the head of the Russian Orthodox Church since February 2009, while Pope Francis took up his role in March 2013.

The Roman Catholic Church has more than a billion members worldwide, while the Russian Orthodox Church numbers about 165 million.

The Russian Church is the largest and most powerful in the Orthodox faith, which is made up of a number of separate churches.

Vatican has ties with Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I – nominal head of Eastern Orthodox Churches, but Cuba talks is the first between a Pope and a Patriarch of Russian Church.

The Russian Church is the largest and most powerful Church in Orthodoxy.

Cuba was reportedly chosen as the place of their first meeting because it is far from Rome, Istanbul and Moscow with all their historical baggage of schism.

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Pope Francis will meet the head of Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, in Cuba next week.

The Russian Orthodox Church said the “persecution of Christians” would be the central theme of the historic meeting.

Pope Francis will stop over in Cuba on his way to Mexico.

It is the first papal meeting with a Russian Church head since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity split in the 11th Century.

The meeting is due to take place at Havana airport, where Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will sign a joint declaration.

Patriarch Kirill is due in Cuba for an official visit at the same time as Pope Francis’ stopover in Havana.Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill

In a joint statement, the two churches said the meeting would “mark an important stage in relations between the two churches”.

They invited “all Christians to pray fervently for God to bless this meeting, that it may bear good fruits.”‘

Since becoming Pope in 2013, Francis has called for better relations between the different branches of Christianity.

The foreign policy chief of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Illarion, told reporters that there were still differences between the two churches, but that international events had pushed the leaders to meet.

Metropolitan Illarion said: “The situation in the Middle East, in northern and central Africa and in other regions where extremists are perpetrating a genocide of Christians, requires immediate action and an even closer cooperation between Christian churches.

“In this tragic situation, we need to put aside internal disagreements and pool efforts to save Christianity in the regions where it is subject to most severe persecution.”

Patriarch Kirill has been the head of the Russian Orthodox Church since February 2009, while Pope Francis took up his role in March 2013.

The Roman Catholic Church has more than a billion members worldwide, while the Russian Orthodox Church numbers about 165 million.

The Orthodox Church is made up of more than 10 separate churches. The Vatican has existing ties with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, but this will be the first meeting between the Pope and the patriarch of the Russian Church, which is the largest and most powerful Church in Orthodoxy.

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If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517. If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to re-marry. If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560. If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582. If you are Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England, founded by Samuel Senbury in the American colonies in the 17th century. If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1606. If you are of the Dutch Reformed Church, you recognize Michelis Jones as founder because he originated your religion in New York in 1628. If you are a Methodist, your religion was founded by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1774. If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, New York, in 1829. If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865. If you are Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as “Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal Gospel,” “Holiness Church,” or “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past hundred years.

If you are Roman Catholic, your church shared the same rich apostolic and doctrinal heritage as the Orthodox Church for the first thousand years of its history, since during the first millennium they were one and the same Church. Lamentably, in 1054, the Pope of Rome broke away from the other four Apostolic Patriarchates (which include Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), by tampering with the Original Creed of the Church, and considering himself to be infallible. Thus your church is 1,000 years old.

If you are ORTHODOX Christian, your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It has not changed since that time. Our church is now almost 2,000 years old. And it is for this reason, that Orthodoxy, the Church of the Apostles and the Fathers is considered the true “one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” This is the greatest legacy that we can pass on to the young people of the new millennium.