.- Bishop Jose Siro Gonzalez of Pinar del Rio Cuba told a Spanish newspaper this week that freedom of worship, but not freedom of religion, exits in Cuba and that in 50 years the Church has lost 500 priests.
In an interview with “La Voz de Galicia,” the bishop revealed that the Church in Cuba does not have access “to any publicity system, no newspapers, television, nothing.” “We lost everything in 1961,” he recalled, when the government took away “our education, our care for the sick, in sum, everything except our seminary.”
Church-State relations “have always been distant,” and although government leaders claim they “are very positive,” in reality “this is not the case.”
“Fidel Castro has always known he is not going to bring in the Church, in past times he has not done it and even less so now,” said Bishop Gonzalez.
He also explained that “the Cuban state is very jealous about aid,” and when a natural disaster occurs, “the State says no” to the Church, arguing that providing aid is its function. “The State is very jealous of the Church,” he added, and therefore charity work has to be one-on-one and carried out very carefully.
Nevertheless, Bishop Gonzalez said, “The Church has achieved enormous prestige among the people, because it has been the one to care for the poor, to obtain medicine, to care for children with Down’s syndrome. The people see it as very straightforward charity,” he said.