Orthodox Christians in Cuba have a long tradition of evangelism and are known for their faith. These Christians are mainly from the Greek and Russian traditions, but others are also from other Christian faiths. Several of these churches are open to the public and welcome visitors. They offer regular services and can often be found around the capital. Among them is the Our Lady of Kazan Orthodox Cathedral, where the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church resides.
Our Lady of Kazan Orthodox Cathedral
The Our Lady of Kazan Russian Orthodox Cathedral is located in Kazan, a city in Russia. This Russian Orthodox church serves the local community. It has undergone repairs and maintenance work.
In the 13th century, an icon of the Virgin of Kazan, or “Theotokos of Kazan,” was brought to Russia from Constantinople. After the khanate of Kazan was taken over by the Tatars in 1438, the icon was hidden and never mentioned again. A few years later, the city was liberated by Tsar Ivan the Terrible. At that time, the icon was said to have been smuggled out of Russia to protect it from Communists. However, some experts believe that the original icon was lost.
During World War II, the icon of Our Lady of Kazan resurfaced in Leningrad. It was carried by resistance leaders as they fought to reclaim capital from Poles. Later, it was used in processions around the fortifications of Nazi-occupied Leningrad.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Blue Army of Fatima, a group dedicated to worship of Mary, sought to preserve the Our Lady of Kazan icon. In 1993, Pope John Paul II accepted a copy of the icon, and it was displayed in the Vatican. Since then, it has been kept in various churches and monasteries throughout the world.
Greek Orthodox ‘patriarch’
The Catholic and Orthodox churches will hold a meeting in Cuba this week. This is a first for both branches of Christianity. It takes place at the same time as Patriarch Kirill of Moscow visits Cuba.
During the Castro years, Russia played an important role in Cuba. Many Cubans studied in Russia and became deeply immersed in the rich Orthodox tradition.
Among the Cuban Orthodox Christians are diplomats and people from former Soviet states. Pope Francis has urged both sides to improve relations. In a statement, the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches said they are willing to meet. However, a recent report from the United States State Department says that religious groups are under surveillance.
The meeting will mark a major step in the Catholic and Orthodox churches’ efforts to bridge their divisions. Both sides invited all Christians to pray for the meeting.
Hundreds of Orthodox faithful are expected to attend the consecration. These include 500 Greek-Americans. They also plan to take part in a two-day conference with Pope Francis.
Athenagoras is the leader of the Greek Orthodox church in the Caribbean and Central America. He explains that Cubans are more aware of Orthodoxy than most Latin American countries.
Russian Orthodox community in Colombia
The Russian Orthodox community in Colombia has been around for a long time. A number of converts have been able to practice their faith in a way that was both legal and successful.
Shlomo Cano, a Jewish Israeli ex-pat who worked in the motorcycle manufacturing plant in Medellin, is one of them. His family had been praying in a synagogue for years but it took Shlomo’s adroitness to finally get the Chief Rabbinate to approve his certification.
In the past, it was not illegal to be a practicing Spanish or Portuguese Jew in Colombia. However, due to the Catholic Church’s strict morals, it was not advisable.
Some converted Jews remained in Colombia while others emigrated to the United States. Most settled in Miami.
There are about ten synagogues in Colombia. The largest, by far, is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
A 120 year-old Torah is on display in the synagogue. However, the best organized Jewish community in Colombia is the one in Bello. This sleepy suburb of Medellin has been home to many Jews. It was once the capital of assassins.
Shlomo is now a supervisor at a motorcycle assembly plant, and the Hebrew vocabulary is expanding rapidly. He is also expanding his family’s horizons.