Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia officiated the Divine Liturgy at the Russian Our Lady of Kazan Orthodox Cathedral in Havana this Sunday morning, which was attended by the President of the Councils of State and Ministers Raúl Castro Ruz.
“I will continue to pray for Cuba, I will continue to pray for you (Raúl) and your brother, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday, for the Cuban people and Cuban Christians,” Kirill said during the mass.
Also attending the liturgy were First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, the President of the National Assembly of People’s Power Esteban Lazo Hernández and Mercedes López Acea, vice president of the Council of State and first secretary of the Party in Havana.
During the mass, the Patriarch recalled the history of the Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral and noted that he was officiating this Divine Liturgy with a very particular sentiment, as 45 years ago the first Russian Orthodox Church was consecrated on the island, the precursor to today’s cathedral.
He recalled the conversation with Fidel in which the idea of the temple where they were gathered today arose. At the time, Kirill spoke of the importance of the Russian Orthodox Church in the history of his country and Fidel said he would be very happy for a Russian Orthodox Church to be established in Havana. The City Historian Eusebio Leal helped choose the site for the cathedral, and Kirill made a commitment to return to celebrate a Divine Liturgy here.
The Patriarch also noted that he had consecrated the cathedral in 2008, in his capacity as Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.
“I will continue to pray for Cuba, I will continue to pray for you (Raúl) and your brother, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday, for the Cuban people and Cuban Christians,” His Holiness Kirill expressed.
Regarding the Bible passage that he read during the service, Patriarch Kirill noted the difficulty of updating such texts and putting them in the context of today, but he paused to reflect on the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector who changes under the influence of Jesus. In this regard, he wished to say a few words about Cuba: “The Lord requires of each of us to be revolutionaries. He requires of us an internal revolution, the negation of stereotypes, the courage to follow him. May the example set by Zacchaeus assist us.”
At the end of the Divine Liturgy, Kirill remarked that the visit to Cuba coincided with a historic moment for Christianity – the fraternal meeting with Pope Francis. “Despite maintaining theological differences, we understand the responsibility we have with what is happening in the world, the responsibility for peace on our planet, for human beings, with all their economic and political differences, to live together in peace, to ensure that no foreign policy motive cause any person to exercise force in order to have dominion over others,” he added.
“It’s an ideal image,” he continued, “but if there are no ideals there are no values. So we have made a joint call to work toward these goals and we hope the world will hear us.”
“I ask all of you to pray so that through the joint forces of the Catholics and Orthodox Christians, the world may change; not only from the economic point of view, so important for poor countries, but also the spiritual. So that none of the crises that the world and different states are suffering change the moral nature of a human being.”
Patriarch Kirill warmly welcomed the presence of the authorities of the Catholic Church at the mass, as well as the presence of President Raúl.
“With all my heart I wish you God’s help,” he stated, adding “prosperity for the Cuban people. Cuba is a heroic country, but what happened at the José Martí airport, when for the first time a Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and a Pope met, makes this island of liberty extraordinary. God help the Cuban people.”
In memory of this special day, Patriarch Kirill presented an image of Our Lady of Kazan, together with some vestments to the cathedral; and each of the participants with an icon of The Savior, to take home with them.