[Ed. – This is really big. It means something important that this meeting is occurring in Cuba — a professedly atheist, Communist nation — but you, treasured readers, will have to decide what that is.]
A sombrero-wearing Pope Francis appeared to be excited about his trip to Mexico today as he boarded the plane transporting him from Italy, but the most historic part of his trip comes before he lands south of the border.
The head of the Catholic Church will meet today with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Havana before heading to Mexico for a six-day trip. The meeting will bring the heads of the Russian and Catholic churches together for the first time since Christianity split.
Patriarch Kirill was the first of the two leaders to arrive in Cuba.
Popular convention dates the split between 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 split solidified into centuries of deep hostility, with the two sides differing over a number of doctrinal issues…
Today’s meeting will not actually be the first between an Orthodox Church leader and a pope; in 1964, Pope Paul VI met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, formally recognized as Orthodoxy’s spiritual leader but whose authority is contested by the Russian church.