The historic meeting between Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, and the new president of Cuba, Raul Castro, came to an end on Tuesday with the hope of better relations between the Catholic Church in Cuba and the Communist government, although without concrete promises.
Raul Castro met with Cardinal Bertone on Tuesday afternoon at the “Palace of the Revolution.” Both leaders were accompanied by large entourages. Representatives of the Cuban government included Carlos Lage Davila and Esteban Lazo Hernandez, vice presidents of the Council of the State; Chancellor Felipe Perez Roque; the head of the Religious Affairs Office of the Communist Party in Cuba, Caridad Diego Bello; Eumelio Caballero Rodriguez, vice minister of Foreign Relations; and Raul Roa Kouri, Cuba’s Ambassador to the Holy See.
Cardinal Bertone’s entourage included the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino; Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio in Cuba; Archbishop Juan Garcia Rodriguez of Camaguey; Auxiliary Bishop Juan de Dios Hernandez Ruiz of Havana; Bishop Emilio Aranguren Echeverria of Holguin; Msgr. Jean Marie Speich, advisor of the Apostolic Nunciature; and Msgr. Nicolas Henry Thevenin and Msgr. Lech Piechota, both officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State.
According to the State-run newspaper “Prensa Latina,” Cardinal Bertone and Raul Castro “held formal talks during which they discussed the progress of relations between the Cuban state and the Holy See and the Catholic Church in Cuba. In addition, they talked about issues of multilateral and international interest.”
During a brief meeting with reporters before heading back to Rome, Cardinal Bertone said talks with Cuban officials had been “satisfactory and hopeful” and were an opportunity to talk about the need to improve relations between the government and the local Church and to allow a “wider participation” of the Church in Cuban society.
The meeting ended, however, without any specific commitment on the part of Cuban officials to grant the Church in Cuba greater leeway on evangelization, education or access to the media.