Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

HAVANA, August 22, 1998, Cuba Free Press.

CUBANS DESCRIBE THE TYPE OF CHURCH THEY LONG FOR By Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - After the euphoria of the pope's visit by way of a sedative, what remains for many is the dream of having a Catholic church as strong and active as its counterparts in any other Latin American nation.

Liberation theology never took root on this island. That could very well be one of the reasons why our brand of catholicism cannot be compared to that of Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Mxico, where there's a brand of catholicism very much involved with the national reality, regardless of how violent.

The murder of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Guerardy is an eloquent example of how a servant of God can become involved in the cause of human rights. Equally significant are the initiatives for the pacification of Colombia undertaken by the highest church hierarchy there, helped by its counterpart in Germany. The coalition led to a fruitful dialogue in the German city of Maguncia between representatives of the guerrilla forces and the Colombian civil society.

By contrast is the apparent cold shoulder and distant attitude emanating from the Cuban Catholic Bishop's Conference as far as national politics is concerned. The reason is obvious: The repression which the revolutionary regime waged against the church, in the 1960's, with the closing of churches, convents, schools, and the expulsion of hundreds of priests and nuns, both Cubans and foreigners.

This truth is too traumatic to be erased with one swift stroke of the pen. Although a great deal of water has passed under the bridge, and the footprints of violence have eroded with small gestures from the government, the time is still not here for Cuban catholics to say "present" on the Cuban political stage.

POPE JOHN PAUL II CLEARED THE WAY

About a dozen people interviewed by Cuba Free Press agreed on this point: The pope's visit helped clear the way in the relations between the church and state. "But there's still a lot of marabu (weeds) in the way," said Azucena Valdes, 73, a retiree. Osvaldo Molina, 28, a chauffeur by trade, said "the possibility of communication between the Cuban (Catholic) church and the population are very limited, unless you attend church regularly."

Half of those interviewed agreed "the time has come to hit the streets and express yourself in the mass media."

Alicia Montesinos, 42, housewife, said, "I'll never forget the night of January 13, 1998, when Cuban TV showed Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Havana's archbishop, talking about the pope's visit.

Here husband, Mariano Suarez, 46, self-employed, said he had held high hopes for the pope's visit. "I really thought that things would change and that we would start seeing a stronger participation of the church in our national life. But that hasn't been the case." D

Of the six that believe that conditions are not ripe for an active participation of the Church in the national scene, three are convinced that this is due to the lack of ability of the present church leadership and two blame it on shortcomings of the clergy.

"The catholic church in Cuba has never carried the weight of its counterparts in other countries in Latin America and you need centuries to fix this weakness," said Angel Vergara, 60, a public servant.

Another person interviewed, who chose to remain anonymous, said, "Not even in a thousand years will Cubans be as religious as the Poles, the Brazilians, or the Spanish. Believers, yes, but of just about anything else, not catholicism."

A FEARLESS CHURCH

Cubans are not prone to religious fanaticism. The exception is perhaps Santeria, a cult which finds its origins in Africa and is growing in membership.

"The four decades of Castro's brand of totalitarianism have been fatal for catholics in Cuba", said Ruben Vergara, an 18-year-old student.

"If the revolution had not abolished religious schools we would have much less of a problem with morals today," said Maria de los Angeles Ramos, a single mother who couldn't complete her university studies and is presently engaged in prostitution.

Aside from the discrepancies and the fact that only three of the 12 interviewed admitted to being catholics, two of the group were indifferent to the question concerning the type of church that Cubans want.

However, 10 of the 12 agreed with lawyer Rene Lopez, 52, who said: "Cubans in the year 2000 need a strong church, capable of challenging the excesses and shortcomings of the state, whether socialist, capitalist, or a hybrid of the two. We want a church which identifies with the difficulties faced by the population, humble, showing solidarity, receptive to our needs. A church without fear, willing to provide its input as needs arise, as it did on September 18, 1993, with the Pastoral Letter Love awaits all."

By Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.


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