Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, will stop in Cuba today for a historic meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, at Havana’s José Martí International airport.
The Pope has said the purpose for the meeting is to have a “personal conversation” with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church that split with the Catholic Church in the Great Schism of 1054. After 1,000 years of division between the Eastern Orthodox churches and Western Catholic Church, it appears Cuba may be the setting for the healing to begin.
Today’s meeting is not the first time Cuba has been the setting for epic tensions to converge. Fearing a US retaliation after the 1959 revolution, Castro struck a deal with the Soviet Union to install medium range nuclear missiles on the island. What followed was a show down between the Soviets and the Americans that culminated in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In the sweltering control room of a wounded submarine patrolling the Cuban coast, Soviet military officer, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, refused to push the nuclear missile launch button, despite protests from the submarine’s captain, who believed war had started and needed Vasili’s consent. The missile was never fired, but that day was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear armageddon.