During a huge Mass that filled the Cathedral square in Havana, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, demanded the right of the Catholic Church in Cuba to evangelize without limits imposed by the state.
Several key leaders of the Cuban government sat in the front rows of the square, while more than 3,000 people filled the outdoor square, in a public expression of faith unseen in the Cuban capital since the visit of Pope John Paul 10 years ago.
"We have to thank God because the Church in Cuba along the centuries has been a beneficial presence, marked by intense educational and social action, promoting the respect for the life of all human persons," Cardinal Bertone said.
"Therefore, the Church aspires to be ever more present and active in the midst of society, fulfilling its urgent mission to teach, heal, assist the poor and promote the dignity of all human beings," he also said.
After transmitting to "each one and all of you the spiritual closeness of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI," the Secretary of State concluded that "the fields in which the Church is present are vast," but the Church wishes to expand without limits it radius of action to other fields, to contribute to the common good of the Cuban people."
In recent years, the Cuban Bishops have requested from the government, without success, the right to provide Catholic education and to run their own media organizations. According to the Cuban constitution, only public education is legal and all media must be state-owned.