THURSDAY, 29 JANUARY 2004
EXPECTING IMPRESSIVE MOVES IN CUBA
Istanbul, 28 January 2004 (12:20 UTC+2)
A formal invitation will be extended to Cuban leader Fidel Castro to visit
Mt. Athos, by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, in his letter thanking him
for the warm welcome during his historic visit to Cuba, which opened up new
horizons for Orthodoxy and Hellenism, both in this island country of the
Caribbean, and throughout the American continent.
In a discussion with the press shortly before the landing of the "Olympic
Airways" flight in Istanbul, the Ecumenical Patriarch mentioned the
unexpectedly warm welcome he received from the Cuban government and its
President Fidel Castro, as well as the pressures of the US.
"The Americans cannot be pleased, but we are not a party, we are not an
ideology", pointed out the Patriarch, asking those who continue insist on
the embargo against Cuba: "What did the poor do, what did the children do,
so as not to have medicines", asked the Head of Orthodoxy.
Mr. Vartholomeos observed that the role and mission of the Patriarchate
place it above ideologies, political confrontations and quarrels.
The extent of the warm welcome Mr. Vartholomeos found from both the Cuban
leadership and people, is evident in the fact that the President of Cuba
met with the Patriarch 7 times, had three private meetings with him,
accompanied him to the airport in his car, and expressing views that were
unimaginable for an unyielding Marxist revolutionary such as Fidel.
According to statements of the public, they expect help from the Ecumenical
Patriarch and Greece, not merely financial, but help with ideas, because it
seems that Cuba is at the beginning of impressive openings. Evidence of
this opening can be found both in the wish expressed by Fidel for books on
Mt. Athos and Orthodoxy to be sent to Cuba, in order to be distributed to
the country's schools and foundations, and in the invitation for the
foundation of Theology School of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Havana,
with the expenses to be covered by the Cuban State.
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