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Showing posts with label Persecution of Christians in Cuba. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Persecution of Christians in Cuba. Show all posts

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Castro Attends Opening of First New Seminary in Cuba for 50 years

Castro attends opening of first new seminary in Cuba for 50 years

A statue of Christ seen outside Cuba's new San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary (CNS photo/Desmond Boylan, Reuters)

From the Catholic Herald (UK)

In a ceremony joined by President Raul Castro, Cuba’s Catholic bishops have inaugurated the San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary, the country’s first major church-related construction in the half century since the revolution led by Fidel Castro.

Joined by Cuba’s bishops and representatives of the Vatican and of the Catholic Church in the United States, Mexico, Italy and the Bahamas, Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino noted that the late Pope John Paul II blessed the first stone of the new seminary at a Mass during his January 1998 visit to the island.

At that point, then-President Fidel Castro pledged his support for the project, the cardinal said.

“That promise has been faithfully completed,” he said, adding his thanks to the Castros, “that this work was completed properly with the help of the state.”

Among the 300 guests attending the official opening were the apostolic nuncio to Cuba, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Mexican Archbishop Emilio Berlie Belaunzaran of Yucatan. Cuban government representatives included the foreign minister, the minister of culture, the head of the office of religious affairs of the ruling Communist Party and the historian of Havana.

A message sent in the name of Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped the seminary’s inauguration would be “a sign and a stimulus for a renewed commitment to strive for careful human, spiritual and academic preparation” for priestly ministry.

The message, sent to Cardinal Ortega by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, invited seminarians to “increasingly identify themselves with the sentiments of Christ the Good Shepherd, through assiduous prayer, serious dedication to study, humbly listening to the divine word, dignified celebration of the sacraments and courageous witness of his love as authentic disciples and missionaries of the Gospel of salvation”.

The seminary, which can house 100 people, will open to students next year on 54 acres of former farmland southeast of Havana.

The Mexican newspaper La Jornada explained that in 1966, in the early days of the Castro regime when tensions with the Church were high, the Church was forced to turn to over to the government the previous San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary, built in 1948.

Classes were moved to a classic colonial cloister in Havana’s historic district, where they have been located ever since. That building will become a cultural centre and studio, housing a library and space for exhibitions, concerts, theatre and film screenings.

The country’s only other Catholic seminary is in Santiago de Cuba, on the southeastern coast.

Construction of the new San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary began in 2006. The stone blessed by Pope John Paul rests in a glass case at the seminary’s entrance.

The Church covered the total cost of the work with donations from individuals, communities and international Catholic institutions. Cardinal Ortega specifically thanked donors, including the bishops’ conferences of the United States, Italy and Germany, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Knights of Columbus, and Catholics in the United States, France, Spain and several Latin American countries.

The opening of San Carlos and San Ambrosio takes place at a time of marked improvement in relations between the Catholic Church and the state, after 50 years of ups and downs.

Analysts describe the current situation as “more relaxed”, since a dialogue process that began with a meeting in May between Raul Castro, Cardinal Ortega and Santiago Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez, president of the Cuban bishops’ conference.

As a result of that dialogue, in July the Cuban government began a process of releasing political prisoners. As of October 21, 47 prisoners had been released on the condition that they voluntarily leave for Spain. Some are reportedly in the process of seeking residency in the United States, where many of the ex-prisoners have family.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Castro Government Detained 60 Pastors in Crackdown

The Communist government of Raul Castro detained 60 Protestant pastors in May and June, sentencing one to six years in prison. Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a nongovernmental organization that works on behalf of persecuted Christians, reports that the crackdown is aimed at the Apostolic Movement, an evangelical and charismatic Protestant community.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Friday, April 17, 2009

U.S. Religious Freedom Body Denied Entry into Cuba

From The Christian Post
By Michelle A. Vu

A U.S. religious freedom body was denied visas to enter Cuba for a fact-finding mission that included meetings with the island’s religious communities and government officials, the group said on Monday.

The U.S. Commission on International Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan group created to monitor religious freedom in the world, was forced to cancel a planned trip to Cuba when visas were withheld for members of the delegation. The Cuban government did not give any explanation for withholding the visas, the Commission said.

“We are very disappointed by the Cuban government’s refusal to allow an official U.S. delegation to investigate first-hand Cuban citizens’ freedom to believe and practice their faith on the island,” said Felice D. Gaer, chair of USCIRF. “Our Commission has visited China, Vietnam, Laos, Saudi Arabia and other countries. Does the Cuban government have something to hide?”

Cuba has been on USCIRF’s “Watch List” of countries that require close monitoring due to the violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments.

USCIRF noted that it had planned the trip weeks in advance and had received the support of the U.S. State Department for the official visit.

The Commission’s announcement of its visa denial came the same day the Obama administration lifted the travel ban on Cuban-Americans who want to visit their homeland. Cuban-Americans are also now allowed to send money back to their island nation.

Easing of some Cuba-related restrictions marks a break with the nearly half century U.S. policy toward the communist state. Cuba is the only country in the world that most Americans are still barred from visiting.

But there have reportedly been slight improvements in Cuba since Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel Castro, became president last year. Under Raul Castro, Cuba signed two international human rights treaties that his brother Fidel Castro had opposed for 30 years. Raul Castro has also called for public debate about Cuba’s future without fear of reprisal, as long as participants do not challenge the socialist system.

Cuban churches have also reported growth despite the communist government’s restrictions on religion. The number of house churches on the island has soared to anywhere from 3,000 to more than 16,000, according to different sources, up from only 1,100 churches and house churches in 1991 – the year when the Congressional Communist party voted to change Cuba’s constitution status from an atheist to a secular state.

“The Commission has received reports that there are improvements in some sectors in Cuba. As with other countries, we seek to ascertain how much and where,” Gaer acknowledged in a statement. “If everything is so normal in Cuba, then the Cuban government should welcome a USCIRF visit. Not allowing USCIRF’s bipartisan delegation to visit is a very disturbing sign.”

But Cuban President Castro seems to be open to improving U.S.-Cuba relations and has said he is prepared to negotiate with the Obama administration, provided there are no preconditions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Urgent Request from Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Dear Friends,

This week marks the fifth anniversary of Cuba’s “Black Spring” when 75 civil society activists, including independent journalists, human rights defenders, pro-democracy activists, and independent librarians were arrested. Today, human rights groups inside Cuba put the total number of prisoners of conscience at around 230. Many of these men and women are Christians.

CSW is particularly concerned by reports that prison authorities consistently violate the religious rights of political prisoners across the country. Political prisoners and their families have reported the repeated confiscation of bibles and other religious literature, the denial of the right to receive visits from a pastor or priest, and a refusal to allow Christian prisoners to meet together for prayer, worship or study, even in the presence of a member of the clergy. This is in violation of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the United Nations in 1955, which guarantees all of the above rights. The fact that these violations are repeatedly reported as occurring in prisons across the country also indicates that this is not a matter of local prison authorities abusing the rights of their prisoners, but a general policy instigated at government levels.

Interestingly, according to information received by CSW, prisoners who do not consider themselves to be religious report that they are able to exercise most of the rights listed above. This suggests that prison authorities recognise the importance of their faith to the Christian prisoners and that they are specifically targeting their faith in an effort to break them down psychologically.

For Christian prisoners, their faith is often the one thing they can cling to in an otherwise hopeless situation. Many former prisoners have told CSW how their faith encouraged and strengthened them in the darkest of moments. It is also vital for their families, as we were reminded by Elsa Gonzalez, the wife of political prisoner, Victor Roland Arroyo, who said,. “Faith is what has made all of this possible. If it were not for my faith in God and the strength He gives me, I would not have been able to endure any of this. Faith is also of the utmost importance for Victor,”

The following represent just a few of these cases:

• Dr Oscar Elias Biscet is a human rights defender who is serving a 25-year sentence. He had already served a three-year sentence and was free for less than a month between his release and his second detention. He is a devout Christian and has frequently had his Bible confiscated and has been arbitrarily denied the right to meet with a priest. He is in very bad health.

• Alfredo Rodolfo Dominguez Batista is a member of the Christian Liberation Movement, a pro-democracy organisation, and is serving a 14-year sentence. His Bible and other religious books were confiscated last summer and they have not been returned to him. He has been visited by a priest in the past but he and his wife have had to ask for this repeatedly, the last time they were refused. Generally, Alfredo has been allowed to meet a priest only once every four or five months. The priest also visits other prisoners but cannot hold services. According to his wife, Melba, although the prisoners cannot meet together for worship, Alfredo meets with them individually to share his faith.

• Normando Hernandez Gonzalez is 38-years old, an independent journalist, serving a 25-year sentence. He is in extremely poor health and Costa Rica has offered to grant him a visa if the Cuban government will release him for humanitarian reasons but thus far this offer has been refused. According to his wife, Yarai Amparo, he is a very strong believer and he has been allowed to keep his Bible but he cannot receive the visit of a priest and is kept in isolation, away from the other prisoners.

• Victor Rolando Arroyo is an independent journalist and a devout Christian. His prison sentence, 26 years, is one of the longest stemming from the 2003 crackdown. He is allowed to keep his Bible but the prison officials confiscated the other religious books brought by his wife for him. He is allowed a visit every three months from a priest chosen by the government. He is not allowed any type of spiritual fellowship with other prisoners and they do not allow the priest to hold a group mass for the prisoners to attend.

• Alexander Aguilar Sosa is serving a six-year sentence for “disrespect.” On January 22, 2008, a Cuban human rights organisation reported that the prison authorities at the Ag├╝ica Prison in Matanzas would not allow him to meet with other prisoners to pray or read the Bible. Alexander told the group that the prison “Chief of Interior Order,” a man named “Aramis”, had broken up the small worship service that he was celebrating on a regular basis with other prisoners.

• Dr Jose Luis Garcia Paneque is a medical doctor and independent journalist serving a 24-year sentence. His wife, Yamile told CSW that the doctor takes great comfort from his Bible which he has been allowed to keep with him in prison and which he reads every day. For some time, the prison authorities refused to allow him to meet with a priest, but have now changed the policy and are allowing a meeting once every two months. He is not allowed to meet with other prisoners for worship and prayer. He is in extremely poor health.


Please remember these men and their families in your prayers. Pray that their religious rights will be respected and that God will give them strength and comfort.


Please also consider writing to the Cuban embassy in London (address below) to ask that the religious rights of all prisoners, regardless of the reason for their imprisonment, be respected in accordance with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. In your letter you may mention these prisoners by name but please refrain from criticising the Cuban political system or Fidel or Raul Castro.

His Excellency Rene Mujica Cantelar
Embassy of the Republic of Cuba167 High Holborn
WC1V 6BA, Fax: (020) 7836 2602