Monday, August 23, 2010

Church in Cuba responds to open letter from dissidents

Church in Cuba responds to open letter from dissidents

Havana, Cuba, Aug 23, 2010 / 10:11 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Havana
issued a press release on August 20 in response to an open letter
recently sent to Pope Benedict XVI by a group of Cuban dissidents. The
archdiocese said its statement was in response to the uproar among
Catholics concerning the letter, "which contains offensive content
toward the Church in Cuba."

The letter

The open letter from the dissidents was signed by 165 people, many of
whom are Catholic and have been involved in the Varela Project. Many are
also family members of the prisoners who "desperately want" the regime
to disappear.

The dissidents stated that they are not in agreement with "the position
the Cuban Church hierarchy has taken in its intervention in support of
political prisoners," which they call "unfortunate and embarrassing."
They believe that if the bishops had offered the "right mediation," they
would have listened to "the complaints of both sides" and would have
reconciled them.

"However," they continued, "the solution of exile, accepted by those who
have been unjustly imprisoned for seven years only because of their
ideas, only benefits the dictatorship," as this "exodus" prevents them
from continuing in their struggle for democracy in Cuba.

The response from the archdiocese

The press release from the Archdiocese of Havana pointed out that when
the Church "accepted the mission of mediating between the family members
of the prisoners ... and Cuban officials, it knew that this mediation
could be interpreted in different ways, provoking various reactions:
from insults to defamation, to acceptance and even gratitude. Remaining
inactive was not a valid option for the Church because of her pastoral
mission," the statement said.

The archdiocese also noted that "the Church's actions supporting respect
for the dignity of all Cubans and for social harmony in Cuba has been
ongoing for 20 years" and "has never and will never be based on
political tendencies, whether of the government or of the opposition,
but rather on her pastoral mission."

The statement also indicated that "the Church in Cuba will not divert
her attention from that which motivated her to act in this process: the
humanitarian complaint from families who have suffered from the
incarceration of one or more of their members."

Demonstrating the Pope's awareness of the situation, the archdiocese
quoted Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, who recently remarked
that the crucial role assumed in the Cuban dialogue process by Cardinal
Jaime Ortega and by Archbishop Dionisio Garcia, the president of the
bishops' conference, was possible because of the evident fact that the
Catholic Church is profoundly rooted in the nation's people and is
interpreted in the light of their spirit and their expectations.

The statement continued citing Fr. Lombardi, who said that the Church in
Cuba "is not a strange reality, she does not escape in difficult times.
She bears the sufferings and brings hope, with dignity and patience, ...
but without trying to increase tensions or exacerbate feelings."

She does this, he added, "with the constant commitment to opening paths
to understanding and dialogue."

The archdiocese concluded its statement again quoting Fr. Lombardi, who
said the Holy See "supports the local Church with its spiritual
solidarity and international authority," and that "the Holy See has
always declared itself against the embargo, and thus is united with the
people in their suffering."

The spokesman then spoke of the Church's willingness "to support any
perspective on constructive dialogue ... with patience, important
progress has been made in this direction. We all want it to continue."

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