Orthodoxy in Cuba

Orthodoxy in Cuba


by George Zimmar, Briarcliff Manor, NY.  Published with permission.


Formerly atheist Cuba was the site of the recent two-hour private meeting of reconciliation between Pope Frances and Patriarch Kirill primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Cuba is also the home of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, to which 28 inquiring souls made a pilgrimage under the auspices of His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras and led by Pastors Nicholas Anctil and Nick Dassouras. The church, a pristine Byzantine structure next to the Plaza de San Francisco, is enfolded within tropical plantings and a vegetated courtyard in old Havana. An outdoor step-down baptismal sacristy graces the grounds and has been the font for the baptism of more than 2500 Orthodox Christians. Indeed, no borders confine the Holy Spirit

We pilgrims filed into the church for the Divine Liturgy conducted in Spanish and Greek by Fr. Athenagoras, the parish priest, assisted by Cuban priests Fr. Nicholas and Fr. Ioannis. A Colombian transplant, Fr. Athenagoras spent four years at a Greek seminary to learn the faith and the language. The church was already filled with the faithful in prayer as we entered during Orthros. In every respect the liturgy followed ritual and rite as in Astoria or Athens. The Divine Liturgy concluded with Holy Communion and a homily on Christ’s love by Metropolitan Athenagoras. After the services, coffee and  the coffee hour.

Who are the parishioners of St. Nicholas? They are Cubans who have found the Orthodox Way. In Central and South America literally thousands are embracing the Orthodox faith. Their presence is changing the once almost exclusively Roman Catholic religious identity in this part of the world. Outside the Romeo y Julieta Cigar Factory we met our guide, Camillo, who had led an animated tour of the factory. Camillo was wearing a komboskinni, a prayer rope. When asked about the bracelet, he said that one of his Orthodox friends had given it to him. It was perhaps received for good luck, but then possibly for something more.

His All Holiness Bartolomeo traveled to Cuba in 2004 to celebrate the consecration of St. Nicholas at the invitation of Fidel Castro. It is said that Castro sentimentally recalls his days as a student under the Jesuits; a book entitled, Fidel y la Religión explores his ideas on belief. In addition to presenting the key to the city to His All Holiness, Castro donated to the parish the land on which the church was built. At the consecration Bartolomeo circled the church with the congregation and opened the doors.

Through Metropolitan Athenagoras, the Holy Spirit has planted the seeds of a vibrant Orthodox Community in Cuba. For his work, the Cuban Government donated to the church the shell of a large building ready for restoration. Located next to the Plaza de la Catedral, St. Nicholas’ soup kitchen serves food to the poor of Havana, prepared by church volunteers. Those who enter this haven of faith receive not only nourishment for their bodies but also sustenance for their souls. When it comes down to it, what we all truly hunger for is God’s loving kindness―no matter in what part of the world we dwell.



The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United Stated of America, originally commissioned by SCOBA to create a national, sustainable, and effective media witness for Orthodox Christianity throughout North America. In a constantly changing media landscape, OCN delivers positive, relevant Orthodox content via multiple delivery platforms, reaching today’s internet users via broadcast, video, blogging, and webinar content.

This 501(c)3 is recognized as a leader in the Orthodox Media field and has sustained consistent growth over twenty years. OCN shares the timeless faith of Orthodoxy with the contemporary world through modern media. We are on a mission to inspire Orthodox Christians Worldwide. We have reached 5.7 Million People in One Week. Much like public radio, the Orthodox Christian Network relies on the support of our listeners, readers, and fans. If you are interested in supporting our work, you can send your gift by direct mail, over the phone, or on our website. Your gift will ensure that OCN may continue to offer free, high-quality, theological media.

New OCN Mobile Orthodox Apps are here!

Spark OCN app is an Orthodox Christian News portal that allows you to take action. Spark provides daily devotions, live Bible study, and you can read and learn about events going on in the Orthodox Christian world, especially those concerning persecuted Christians. In addition to making it easy to share news and articles with friends, Spark allows you make prayer requests for those who are suffering.

Orthodox Prayer Book is the ultimate prayer assistant for Orthodox Christians. Not only does it allow you to carry your prayers around, it was designed from the ground-up for the iPhone to allow you to pray in the least distracting manner possible. Carry all the prayers, information about daily saints and fasting schedules with you throughout your day. Keep a list of people you want to pray for and have them automatically embedded into the prayers.

Click here to download the Spark OCN and Orthodox Prayer Book.

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. OCN is on Social Media! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Pinterest


About author

Orthodox Christian News

Orthodox Christian Network brings you news of events and people important to the life of the Orthodox Church around the world. OCN highlights media organizations that track these important stories.