"Conscious of the numerous obstacles that remain to be overcome, we hope our meeting contributes to the re-establishment of this unity wished for by God," they said in a joint declaration yesterday.

They signed the declaration after holding talks in Cuba, the first such meeting between the leaders of the Eastern and Western churches in nearly a thousand years.

"We call on the international community to take urgent action to prevent Christians from continuing to be driven out of the Middle East," they said.

The 79-year-old Francis, in white robes and a skullcap, and Kirill, 69, in black robes and a white headdress, earlier kissed and embraced before sitting down smiling for the historic meeting at Havana airport.

Francis is now due to embark on a tour of Mexico, while Kirill continues a visit to Cuba, Brazil and Paraguay.

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