Loading
Cuban Church weathered political storm to help prisoners, says archdiocese
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- The Catholic Archdiocese of Havana is defending the considerable risks in that the Catholic Church in Cuba took in negotiations with the Cuban government to help secure the release of over 100 political prisoners.

Church leaders weren't “neutral but committed, and the Church took risks and accepted being in the eye of the hurricane,” according to spokesman Orlando Marquez.

He said that throughout the tense situation, the Church effectively showed “pastoral and charitable concern for all,” both “on one side and on the other.”

Marquez gave a timeline of the political saga and defended the Church's role in negotiating with the Cuban regime in a June 22 article published in the archdiocesan magazine Palabra Nueva.

He said that the Church-government discussions began in May of 2010 after the Women in White – an organization for spouses and relatives of political prisoners – met with Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana.

When the Church accepted their request to serve as a mediator with the government, Marquez recalled, it faced a two-fold situation: on the one hand the Women in White “demanded family reunification, while their family members in prison demanded political changes.”

Authorities, however, “granted the former but not the latter.”

Marquez said that to “expect or demand that the Church bring opposition leaders to the ‘negotiating table’ with government officials was inappropriate in this process.”

“Negotiation is a term that defines a different phenomenon,” the spokesman explained. “It is a process by which the parties in a conflict seek to resolve their differences and mutually recognize one another, without the need for mediation by any third party.”

“Nevertheless,” he added, “what the Church has done for many years is express its conviction that all those in Cuba who show an interest in contributing ideas and efforts for the good of the country should be heard.”

Marquez recalled that the Women in White were calling for three specific things: the return of prisoners to their places of residence, the releasing of sick prisoners as soon as possible, and the option for their loved ones to leave Cuba, alone if need be, rather than having them remain in prison.

On May 19, Cardinal Ortega outlined these requests to Raul Castro's government, which accepted them. Marquez said this landmark response showed how something “new and unheard of began to take shape in Cuba.”

The prison releases began on June 1 and days later Spain offered to receive any political prisoners who wished to travel there.

By the end of the process, the government had released a total of 126 prisoners, 114 of whom went to Spain with their families – including another former prisoner who had already been released to Spain – totaling nearly 800 people.

Marquez said that Cardinal Ortega met personally with each of the prisoners and gave them his blessing if they decided to go to Spain.

But “he never tried to convince anyone to emigrate,” the spokesman noted. “Only 12 said they did not want to go to Spain and instead wanted to remain in Cuba.”

A few asked if going to Spain was a condition for their release, to which the Cardinal replied it was not, “and he assured them that they would be released later, and they were.”

“Those who accepted to make the trip were taken to one place and their families to another, separately, while the immigration process took place, in which the Church was not a participant,” Marquez said.

Upon arriving at the airport, they were greeted by Spanish officials who asked them “if it was their will to leave Cuba, and if this was the case, they were asked to sign a statement of agreement, as Spain would not accept transferring any of them by force. All of them gave their consent and signed.”

Referring to what he called unfounded criticism of the Church's role in the situation, Marquez said it's “wrong” to imply that prisoners “were forced into exile or forced to leave as a condition for not remaining in prison.”

“It is even more wrong to assert that the Cuban government and the Church joined together in exiling these persons,” he emphasized. “The best proof against this assertion, perhaps, is the 12 that decided to remain in Cuba.”

In the end, Marquez said, “as incredible as it seemed at the beginning,” the requests made by the women who met with Cardinal Ortega on May were completely granted. “And the governments of Cuba and Spain surpassed those demands.”

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
Nov
1

Liturgical Calendar

November 1, 2014

All Saints

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 14:1-6

Gospel
Date
10/31/14
10/29/14
10/28/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Phil 1: 1-11
Gospel:: Lk 14: 1-6

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
10/31/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 14:1-6

Homily
Date
10/31/14
10/29/14
10/28/14