The Vatican says Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in a major step to heal the 1000-year-old schism that divided Christianity between East and West.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, announced the meeting with Patriarch Kirill, saying it will take place in Cuba on Feb. 12.

Francis is due to travel to Mexico Feb. 12-18. He will stop in Cuba on the way and meet with Kirill at the Havana airport, where they will sign a joint declaration.

It will be the first time ever that a pope and a Russian patriarch have met.