CUBA — Giving thanks to God for “the gifts received from the coming into the world of his only Son,” Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill attested to sharing “the same spiritual tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate,” including “innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the ‘seed of Christians.’”
Noting that the “epochal change” now bearing upon human civilization has urged their meeting, they state jointly that, “Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.”
Aleteia invites readers to a full reading of this historic document but offers here a breakdown of 10 key points:
Persecuted Christians and Summons to the International Community
“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. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.
“We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defense of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.”
Syria and Iraq
“Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. … Large-scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighboring lands. We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.”
“We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect his creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Religious Liberty and Threat of Secularism
“… we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to his truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.”
Europe’s Christian Roots
“While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by 2,000 years of Christian tradition.”
Marriage and Family
“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.”
Abortion, Euthanasia, Artificial Reproduction
“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 (Gen. 4:10).
“The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled to 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.”
Young Christians and Parenting
“Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (Matt. 25:25) but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbor. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. … Remember that ‘you have been purchased at a great price’ (1 Cor. 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross – Man for God by Jesus Christ.”
“It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism,” understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to reestablish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities that emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbors. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of coexistence.”
“We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work toward social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation and to not support any further development of the conflict.”