Pope and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Issue First Ever Joint Declaration
For the first time in history, the Pope and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch signed a joint declaration. Pope Francis and Patriarch H.H. Kirill met in Havana, Cuba on Friday, February 12, 2016 to issue this declaration.
Francis and Kirill spoke on the unity of the Churches in the first millennium as well as the divergence that marks the past ten centuries. Addressing issues such as Christian persecution in the Middle East, the two leaders are of one accord.
They also spoke about the importance of family in society. Concerned for the changing landscape of family in many countries, the two leaders expressed solidarity and an oneness of belief in regards to family and its importance as “a path of holiness.”
From this conception of family, Francis and Kirill emphasized that the foundation is marriage. Marriage is the free and faithful love of a man and woman. The bond of the union is established by love and enables each to view the other as a gift. They wrote: “Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness.” They expressed their remorse that society has aligned cohabitation with the beauty and sacredness of marriage as well as society’s rejection of “the distinct vocations of man and woman in marriage.”
Francis and Kirill also expressed their concern on disregard for the dignity and sanctity of human life, particularly through abortion, euthanasia (of both the elderly and the disabled), and illicit reproductive technology.
They spoke in a special way to young Christians, imploring them to be courageous in their gift of faith—“‘purchased at a great price’…at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man-God Jesus Christ”—and to hand on the message of the Gospel to future generations.
To read the full declaration, visit the Vatican website.
Below are key paragraphs from the declaration about marriage and family:
- The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.
- 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.
- We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).
The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.
We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.