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Middle Eastern Christians Place High Hopes on Pope, Patriarch

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Christians in the Middle East hope that Friday’s meeting between Russia’s Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Cuba will signal the beginning of the long overdue process of Christian reunification.

During their historic meeting at Havana international airport the two Christian hierarchs signed a joint declaration, which many hope will open a new chapter in relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

“It was with much optimism that we followed the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis… and we are hopeful that this meeting will lead to way to close interaction and eventual reunification of all Christians,” Rodrigue Khoury, the leader of al-Mashriq  — Lebanon’s first and only Orthodox Christian party — told Ria Novosti.

He said that the mention in the joint declaration of the problems Middle Eastern Christians are facing today was of paramount importance to both Orthodox and Catholic Christians living in the region.

“In the East we not only live side by side but we also share the trials and tribulations befalling us all. They are killing us for the crosses we carry; they are forcing us to abandon our homes because we pray. They are persecuting us because we are Christians, not because we are Orthodox or Catholic,” Rodrigue Khouri emphasized.

Pope Francis (C-L) and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill (C-R) sign documents next to Cuban President Raul Castro (R) during a historic meeting in Havana on February 12, 2016

He also said that Orthodox Christians living in the Middle East trusted the Russian Orthodox Church and its good intentions, just like they did the good intentions of Roman Catholic Church and its leader.

Dr. Daniel Philpott, a professor of political science and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame, a US-based Catholic research institution, shared his impressions of the historic meeting in an interview with Radio