The meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba on Friday (12 February) is the first meeting of it’s kind in almost 1,000 years, since the church split in two during the 11th century.
During the meeting, the two leaders took the opportunity to denounce same-sex marriage alongside poverty and war.
In a joint statement issued by the Vatican, they say: ‘The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries.
‘The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness.
‘We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.’
The pair also spoke out against a perceived war on Christian traditions and freedoms, saying: ‘The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer.’
Despite being more progressive on LGBTI issues than previous heads of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out against same-sex marriage, having recently told Vatican judges: ‘there can be no confusion between the family God wants and any other type of union’.
Patriarch Kirill has been staunchly against LGBTI rights, having once said the legal recognition of same-sex marriage is ‘a very dangerous sign of the apocalypse’.