Voice of America News, January 22, 2004
Patriarch of Constantinople Visits Cuba
The Patriarch of Constantinople is in Cuba, the first Orthodox
Christian leader to visit Latin America.
On Sunday, Patriarch Bartholomew will consecrate a church, said to be
the first church of any faith built in Cuba since Fidel Castro's
communist government came to power 45 years ago.
President Castro, dressed in his familiar olive-green uniform,
greeted the black-robed patriarch upon his arrival from Turkey
Wednesday. A group of children sang Greek hymns.
Organizers of the visit say Patriarch Bartholomew will present Mr.
Castro with the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle to thank his
government for building the cathedral.
The patriarch is regarded as the highest dignitary of the Greek
Orthodox Church and is considered to be the successor to Bartholomew
the Apostle. Fourteen patriarchs represent some 250 million Orthodox
Christians around the world. An estimated 2,000 practicing Orthodox
Christians live in Cuba. Many of them are immigrants from countries
of the former Soviet Union.
Cuba's government began to tolerate some religious expression in the
early 1990s and allowed a visit by Pope John Paul in 1998. Most of
Cuba's Christians follow the teachings of the Catholic church.
Marth Mariam Church/ St. George Church Thumpamon