Pope Francis, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, on Friday met with Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, in Havana, Cuba.

According to The New York Times, President Vladimir Putin had a hand in arranging the historic meeting.

“For Francis, the meeting was an ecumenical and diplomatic coup that eluded his predecessors but that also opened him to criticism that his embrace of the Russian patriarch would indirectly give a boost to Mr. Putin as he wages a war in Syria and continues to meddle in Ukraine,” the paper wrote.

In a joint statement, the two leaders said that they “regret” that other unions “have been placed on the same level as” heterosexual marriage.

“The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman,” the statement reads in part. “It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.”

(Related: Increasing support for LGBT rights fueling rise of ISIS, head of Russian Orthodox Church claims.)