Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana recalled his friendship with the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, saying the late dissident's activism found inspiration in the Catholic faith.
During the funeral Mass on Tuesday for Paya, who died in a car accident on July 22, Cardinal Rivara said, “Oswaldo clearly had a vocation to politics, and as a good Christian, this did not take him away from his faith or his religious practice.
On the contrary, he always sought inspiration in his Christian faith for his political activities,” the cardinal said.
“Oswaldo lived the piercing role of being a lay Christian with a political philosophy in complete fidelity to his ideas, without as a consequence ceasing to be faithful to the Church until the end of his days.”
The cardinal also recalled the words Pope Benedict XVI spoke during his departure address in Havana, in which he said that in Cuba, “Nobody should be kept from joining in this passionate task through the restricting of their fundamental rights and from obtaining the necessary strength to build a society in solidarity in which nobody feels excluded.”
Participation in the public life of the country is a duty of the laity and not the Church hierarchy, he stressed.
During the Mass attended by hundreds of Cubans, Cardinal Rivera also read a message of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI, who expressed his “spiritual closeness” to Paya’s family and his desire for the “full recovery” of those wounded in the accident, which also took the life of dissident Harold Cepero.
“Benedict XVI asks that his deepest condolences and spiritual closeness by expressed to the families of the deceased, and he implores the Almighty for the complete recovery of those who were injured,” the message said.
After the Mass, family members and friends attended the burial at the Colon Cemetery in Havana.
Dissidents and members of the opposition in Cuba posted messages on Twitter denouncing the government for dispatching agents around the church during the funeral Mass. Local officials have also come under fire over suspicions that Paya's death was carried out by the government.