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The Francis-Kirill Meeting:
Much Ado About Very Little

by Christopher A. Ferrara
February 11, 2016

With the Church now governed by the demands of public relations and the publicity stunt, according to which the success of a pontificate is determined by the number of events that attract major press coverage, I suppose it is the very biggest of big deals that “for the first time in history the Successor of Peter and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet…” But really, what does all the hoo-hah amount to?

Look at the facts: The meeting, to last some two hours, will take place tomorrow (February 12) in Havana’s José Martí International Airport, where Francis has amended his itinerary to accommodate a stop on his way to Mexico.  As for the Russian Patriarch Kirill, what is he doing in Cuba on the same day?  Kirill will be there on an “official visit,” according to the “foreign minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church. (As a virtual organ of the Russian state, the Russian Orthodox Church has a “foreign minister”.) 

So it would seem that Kirill’s visit is part of the increasingly cozy relations between Putin and the Castro brothers, with the mass-murdering Raul Castro continuing to maintain the iron grip of communism on the “worker’s paradise” 90 miles from Florida.  So cozy are those relations that Newsweek has run an article entitled “WHY RUSSIA AND CUBA ARE PARTYING LIKE IT’S 1962.”

The outcome of the meeting in the airport will be a “joint declaration” concerning the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and in northern and central Africa, no doubt carefully worded to avoid offending Muslims by mentioning the indispensable role of their religion in the persecution. There will be no discussion of the thousand-year-long Orthodox schism from Rome because, quite simply, the post-Vatican II hierarchy no longer speaks of schism as it endlessly pursues utterly pointless “ecumenical dialogue,” whereas the Orthodox party, having no intention ever to reunite with Rome and submit to the authority of the Roman Pontiff, denounces “the heresy of ecumenism,” as the Ukrainian Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk observes with justified irony.

And so the first-ever meeting of a Pope and a Russian Orthodox Patriarch will produce a toothless declaration deploring persecution and do absolutely nothing to mend the schism of 1054, But it will provide yet another public relations coup for Pope Francis — and also for the brothers Castro, whose own PR coup was Francis’ earlier friendly (if not fawning) visit with both of them last June.  It will also be something of a PR coup for Kirill, for the Roman Pontiff has come panting after him in Cuba, changing his Mexican itinerary to do so: “I’ll go wherever you want. You call me and I’ll go,” he said to Kirill last November by telephone.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), now suffering “total persecution” in Crimea following its annexation by Russia, is reduced to the faint hope that “the very fact of the meeting will change some of the radical rhetoric coming from the Russian Orthodox, who do not recognize the Catholic Church as valid, re-baptize Catholics and entice them to become Orthodox....”  As always, “ecumenism” is a one-way street in the direction of the non-Catholic party, which is why I call it “we-become-like-you-menism.” 

For his part, Ukrainian Catholic Partriach Sviatoslav stated: “I hope that the Pope Francis, who always raises his voice in defense of the weak, becomes the voice of Ukrainians leading their struggle for cohesion and unity of their country [including Crimea]. God grant that Patriarch Kirill will, as a result of the meeting, give the necessary instructions to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian authorities, to quickly end the war against Ukraine and arrive at a just peace.”

Nothing of the kind will happen, of course.  Putting aside the complex question of who is to blame for what in the Ukrainian situation, the only thing that will bring peace to Crimea, to Ukraine, to Russia, to the world at large, is Russia’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Until then, there can be neither peace, nor an end to the evils of the Orthodox schism, which my good friend and colleague, John Vennari, essays extensively here.

The two-hour meeting at the airport in Cuba will thus be just another bit of ephemera in the ephemeral “renewal” of the Church that was supposed to have begun at Vatican II.