The article below by IWP Research Professor Paul Coyer was published in Forbes.
The meeting last month in Havana between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) had far more import for geopolitics than it did for the reconciliation of two long-alienated branches of Christianity, as I recently wrote. One Russian goal was the appropriation of the Vatican’s moral authority by gaining Francis’ stamp of approval on Moscow’s role in Syria, in which Russian involvement was cast in terms of protecting Christian minorities threatened by Daesh. Another, related goal highlighted in the joint statement was a further grab for the moral high ground vis-à-vis the United states by praising Russia’s identity as a “Christian nation” (which is why the statement included much praise of the revitalized role of the Russian Orthodox Church in public life in Russia) while simultaneously criticizing “some countries” – the United States – for cultural trends that restrict the ability of Christians to live out their faith in the public square.
A third goal was the blunting of Turkey’s ability to frustrate Russia’s goals in Syria – as Sergey Kholmogorov, a former Russia politician with strong ties to the Kremlin, wrote, a major Russian motivation for the meeting was “Third Rome [Moscow], Meeting First Rome [the Papacy], to Neutralize Second Rome [Constantinople/Turkey]”. Moscow had additional important goals for its meeting with Francis, however, which I did not have the space to address previously, involving Ukraine and Crimea.