An image of the Sunday of Orthodoxy from the Island of Freedom…
On 30 November 2016, Metropolitan Ilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the Chairman of the MP Synodal Department for External Church Relations (OVTsS), visited the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Moscow. He met with the head of the diplomatic representation of Cuba in the Russian Federation Emilio Lozada Garcia, to express condolences for the death of the former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro Ruz. At the Embassy, Metropolitan Ilarion laid flowers before Castro’s portrait, saying to Ambassador Lozada:
I’d like, on behalf of His Holiness Kirill the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias and myself, to express my heartfelt condolences to you personally, to the Cuban government, and to all Cuban people in regards to the death of Comandante Fidel Castro. As Patriarch Kirill stated in his condolence message sent to the brother of the deceased, Chairman of the Council of State and Council of Ministers of Cuba Raul Castro Ruz, Comandante Fidel led Cuba for many years, he became a national symbol and a legend in our country. In Russia, there is probably no one who doesn’t know his name. The friendship between our two peoples, and the respect that the Russian people feel for the Cuban people, all this is largely due to the years when every Soviet citizen knew the name of Fidel Castro.
Metropolitan Ilarion pointed up that His Holiness Patriarch Kirill had a special feeling for Cuba, he repeatedly visited the island, and he met with Fidel Castro. Metropolitan Ilarion reiterated that the construction of a Russian Orthodox church-building in the centre of the Cuban capital took place due to the personal participation of Fidel Castro:
It wasn’t a chance occurrence that the meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias and the Pope of Rome took place in Havana. This was a deliberate decision of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill… the meeting should take place there, and not somewhere else. This visit of His Holiness gave him a last opportunity to see Comandante Fidel. I’d like to express my sympathy to all of you and I wish that the friendly feelings that the Russian people have for the Cuban people and Cuba would endure in Russia for many more years.
In turn, Ambassador Lozada thanked Metropolitan Ilarion for his kind words and gave assurances that the Cuban leadership would continue to strengthen friendly relations and to preserve the long-standing fruitful coöperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Government of Cuba. M Kh Palacio, the head of the Office of Public Relations and Protocol for the Ss Cyril and Methodius all-Church Postgraduate and Doctoral Institute, was also present at this meeting. Metropolitan Ilarion left a note in the Condolences Book for Fidel Castro at the Cuban Embassy:
On behalf of His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, I express heartfelt and sincere condolences to the Cuban government and to all Cuban people due to their heavy loss… on the death of Comandante Fidel Castro, who became a symbol of the struggle of the Cuban people for independence. For more than half-a-century, Comandante Fidel led Cuba. In Russia, everyone knows his name. The Russian Orthodox Church is grateful for his role in building a church dedicated to the Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan in Havana, due to which our compatriots in Cuba have a place to worship and to meet. I wish that those good feelings of friendship and mutual respect between the Cuban and Russian peoples, which the departed did much to foster and develop, should remain in our hearts.
On 25 November, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz died in the 91st year of his life. On 26 November, Cuba announced a nine-day mourning period. Fidel Castro’s funeral will be on 4 December in Santiago de Cuba.
30 November 2016