Cuban government harasses parish praying rosary for dissidents

.- Since 2003 Cuban police agents have been harassing the parish of Palma Soriano, where a group of Catholics gather each month to pray the rosary for political prisoners.  Cuban officials have called the activity “counterrevolutionary.”

The idea of praying the rosary came from Roilan Montero, who was himself a political prisoner.  The group gathers on the 18th day of each month to pray for dissidents rounded up during the “Black Spring” of 2003, when some 75 people were arrested and sentenced to prison terms.

At first the group met at the home of one of the prisoner’s family, but they had to stop their meetings because of government pressure.  They then decided to ask Father Oscar Mario Romero Becerra if they could meet at the parish of Palma Soriano. Government officials continued to harass the group and eventually forced Father Becerra in August of 2004 to leave Cuba and return to his native Mexico.

Despite the pressure, the group decided to meet on March 18 to pray the rosary, with the permission of the new pastor, Father Francisco Sanabria Encizo.

Government agents set up huge loudspeakers in order to the keep the group from initiating their prayers and coerced children and adolescents to taunt the group once they finished praying.  Father Sanabria was denounced by the government for organizing a counterrevolutionary activity in the parish, but he was not intimidated and said the rosary had no political significance of any sort.

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