His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, was invited by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to accompany him on his historic visit to Cuba, which took place January 21-25. During this special occasion, His Eminence attended the consecration of the newly constructed Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas, which took place in Havana. Cuban President Fidel Castro also was present at the service, where he presented Patriarch Bartholomew with a symbolic key to the newly consecrated cathedral.
On the occasion of the Patriarchal visit, and in honor of the Archbishop of America, the U.S. Interests Section Chief in Havana, Cuba, James Cason, organized a reception during which the Archbishop had the opportunity to meet with Cuban dissidents and to discuss important humanitarian concerns with them. During their meeting with the Archbishop, the dissidents presented a number of papers on human rights issues, which in turn were conveyed to His All Holiness, the Patriarch.
While in Havana, in addition to numerous meetings with local government officials, the Patriarch also visited a children's hospital and a school for children with special needs, giving small crosses to the children as a blessing related to his visit. As a blessing to the people of Cuba, who built the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the Patriarch also gave President Fidel Castro a simple cross. Likewise, Fidel Castro presented Patriarch Bartholomew with a jeweled cross in recognition of his historic visit to the island nation.
The visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Cuba was his first visit ever to Latin America. His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians. He is the 270th successor to the Apostle St. Andrew.