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Pope Francis holds historic talks with Russian Orthodox Patriarch

In a joint declaration, they also urged the world to protect Christians from persecution in the Middle East

Baku. 13 February. REPORT.AZ/ Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill have called for restored Christian unity between the two churches at historic talks in Cuba, Report informs citing BBC.

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, they also urged the world to protect Christians from persecution in the Middle East.

The two-hour talks were held at Havana airport.

They 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 Friday.

"I'm happy to greet you, dear brother," the Russian Church leader said.

"Finally," the pontiff said.

At a news conference after the meeting, Kirill said the discussions were "open" and "brotherly", while 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."

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