EDITOR’S NOTE (Nick Stamatakis): All of us, history lovers, have long understood that it is often the little historical details that write the most glorious pages – and not the big battles or political revolutions. Such is the case of building an Orthodox Church, the Church of Saint Nicholas, in communist Cuba, on a piece of land donated by Fidel Castro. Who convinced Communist Fidel to proceed with such an act? His close advisor, a devoted Christian, Eusebio Real, and direct intervention by Fidel’s friend, the late former King Constantine of Greece…
Below we have translated the story from exapsalmos.gr (by Sotiris Tzoumas), who refers to the fantastic report by palmosev.gr which includes amazing photos (some posted here)…
How Did the Late King Constantine Convinced Fidel Castro To Built Saint Nicholas In Havana!
In 1991, Fidel Castro wanted to give a new image of Cuba to the outside world in terms of religiosity in his country, and for this reason, he invited the then Pope, John Paul II, to visit Cuba, and welcomed him to the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Old Havana. Soon, however, she realized the Papal cunning and, of course, did not invite him again.
Then a friend of his advised him: “If you want to fix the image of your country and have a real blessing from God, give back the Orthodox Church that you ruined.” In Havana, there was an Orthodox Church of Saints Constantine and Helen built by Greek sailors, which Castro destroyed in 1985 and replaced it with a playground. Thus, the thirty-five Greek families living in Havana found themselves without a temple.
He liked his friend’s idea, and so he sent an official document to the Greek Government, informing it that he intended to build a Holy Church in honor of Saint Nicholas this time, the patron saint of sailors and that he wanted, after the Church is built, to invite the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to inaugurate him.
For this reason, he allocated a plot of land next to the Church of Saint Francis, in old Havana. The Greek Government then, thanking Fidel Castro, decided to allocate a fund of 100,000 Dollars for the construction of the Church. However, the Cuban leader replied that the costs of building the Church would be covered by the Cuban government. So the money was allocated for the interior decoration of the Church, icons, icons, etc. The Temple was built very quickly and on January 25, 2004, a delegation from Greece and Constantinople arrived in beautiful Havana to inaugurate the Temple. Of course, among them, the first of this “miracle”, Fidel’s friend and his family.
For about a week, the heart of Greece was beating in Havana. All the Greek media were there. The journalists, who were there, surrounded Fidel’s friend and, among many other questions, expressed their blessed question: “How come you, a former king, and a Communist leader have such a friendly relationship”? And the answer of Konstantinos (he was Castro’s friend): “These are perceptions of the last century. We have been friends with the President for many years and look what this friendship has brought.”
The sequel, of course, was amazing. A baptistery was built in front of the Church, in which, until 2010 approximately 10,000 Orthodox Christians had been baptized. Today there are several Churches in Cuba. After the Church, Castro also built an Orthodox Theological Seminary, where children from Cuba and 29 other Latin American countries can study.
Anyone who wants can refer to the archives of all the news media of those days, January 2004, for more details.
Dear friends, I do not know the deeds and days of politicians and kings. In Cuba, however, there are families of happy people who are amenable to everyone with a sense of humor and speak perfect Greek. For THAT Konstantinos, the friend of Kastro, I have to say one “God forgive him, and may God rest his soul”. The rest is the work of God and History.
Πως έχτισε ο Φιντέλ Κάστρο τον Άγιο Νικόλαο στην Αβάνα
Του Σωτήρη Τζούμα