HAVANA - The spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians will honor Fidel Castro with a church order in recognition of Cuba’s construction of a new cathedral, regional church leaders said Friday.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will arrive in Cuba Wednesday to begin a visit, the first ever by the Orthodox Christian patriarch to Latin America.
Bartholomew will bestow the church’s Order of St. Andrew on Castro for his government’s construction of the new St. Nicholas Cathedral, to be consecrated by the patriarch on Jan. 25, regional church leaders said.
Bartholomew is considered “first among equals” of 14 patriarchs representing Orthodox Christian in eastern Europe and Middle East. There are less than 2,000 practicing Orthodox Christians in Cuba.
Cuba became officially atheist in the years after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, but the government abandoned official atheism more than a decade ago and allowed religious believers to join the Communist Party.