The article below by IWP Research Professor Paul Coyer was published in Forbes.
The recent meeting in Havana between Pope Francis and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill held importance far beyond religion and historic church splits. The geopolitical reasons Russia wanted the meeting, and historical roots of Russia’s geopolitical play, which are wrapped up in Russia’s sacralized sense of national identity, are far more interesting.
Firstly, the impression was given in some of the media that Kirill, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), is the leader of the world’s Orthodox believers – an impression sought by Kirill and Vladimir Putin, both of whom have a vested interest in seeing Kirill’s stature enhanced. The leader of Eastern Orthodoxy, known as the “first among equals,” is the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (Istanbul), who has been Patriarch since 1991. Bartholomew’s See is based in Turkey, and he is a Turkish citizen (he is a member of the small indigenous Greek community in Turkey), a factor which has complicated relations between Kirill and Bartholomew as Russia’s relations with Turkey have become increasingly conflicted.