Vatican City, 13 February 2016 (VIS) – After signing the Joint Declaration with Patriarch Kirill, the Pope departed by air for Mexico. During the trip he spoke briefly with journalists, expressing his joy at the encounter with the Patriarch and the willingness of President Raul Castro to host the meeting.
The Pope revealed that he had spoken with the Cuban president at his previous meeting and that the latter had expressed his full availability to facilitate the meeting between the bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in Havana. Francis thanked President Castro for this gesture and spoke about his experience with His Holiness Kirill.
"In all honesty, I felt I was in front of a brother, and he said the same to me too. Two bishops who talk about the situation of their Churches, first of all, and the situation of the world … of wars that now risk becoming not only piecemeal but which instead involve all; and of the situation of Orthodoxy. … Finally we established a programme of possible joint activities, because unity is built by walking together. Once I said that if unity is created through study, by studying theology and so on, perhaps the Lord will come and we will still not have achieved unity. Unity is built through progress: this way the Lord, when He comes, will at least find us walking together".
"Finally, we signed the Declaration. … There will be many interpretations. ... But it is not a political declaration, nor is it a sociological declaration. It is a pastoral declaration, even when it refers to secularism and explicit issues such as bio-genetic manipulation and all these things. But it is pastoral: it is the work of two bishops who met each other with pastoral concern. And I am happy".
After a further three-hour flight, the Pope arrived at 7.30 p.m. local time (2.30 a.m. in Rome) at Mexico City's Benito Juarez airport, where he was received by President Enrique Pena Nieto, in the presence of the state authorities and representatives of the Permanent Council of Mexican Bishops. It was however an informal welcome, without protocol ceremonies or official discourses, although the Pope and the president spoke briefly in the Presidential Hall.
From the airport, Francis made a nineteen-kilometre journey by popemobile to the apostolic nunciature, where he will stay while in Mexico City, and where he was awaited by hundreds of people. He appeared later on to greet them, and before giving his blessing, he asked them to pray at home to Our Lady both for the people who love them and for those who have done them harm, so that the Mother of God would give them her blessing.