12/05/12: Archons and pilgrims celebrate the feastday of Saint Nicholas in Havana, Cuba

Under the auspices of His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras and led by Father Alexander Karloutsos, Archon Spiritual Advisor, a group of over 80 Archons and Greek Orthodox faithful journeyed to Havana, Cuba for a six-day pilgrimage to visit Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The pilgrimage, in celebration of the Feast of Saint Nicholas, lasted from December 5-10 and was sponsored by the Order of Saint Andrew.
The beautiful Byzantine-style Cathedral is decorated with Greek mosaics, icons and candelabras and has a hand-carved wooden altar. It was built in a garden of the Basilica Minor of Saint Francis of Assisi, at the port side in Colonial Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon the official invitation of former President Fidel Castro in January 2004, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made a five-day official visit to Cuba, consecrating the new St. Nicholas Cathedral. Former President Fidel Castro presented the key of the Cathedral to the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians. His All-Holiness invited Archbishop Demetrios of America to accompany him on his historic, first-ever visit to a Latin American nation.
The group enjoyed many memorable moments in the church. One of the highlights was the baptisms of five Cubans to the Orthodox Christian faith. The happiness and enthusiasm on their faces was heartwarming to all of the pilgrims from the USA.

On Sunday, December 9, after Divine Liturgy, members of the Cuban parish–both children and adults–impressed the group with a wonderful performance which included songs in Spanish, English and Greek and a rendition of “The Old Man and the Sea,” a novel written by Ernest Hemingway. The group was hosted for lunch by the parishioners in the beautiful gardens behind the church. Their pride beamed as they offered the lunch and their presentation to the pilgrims.

The Cypriot Ambassador, His Excellency Stavros Loizides, invited the group to a lovely cocktail reception in the garden of his residence. An official from the American Mission to the US Interest Section was also present, along with the Greek, Russian, Serbian and Austrian Ambassadors. In addition, a breakfast meeting took place with the Greek Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Pantelis Carcabassis.
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