.- Young people from different religious denominations have asked Cuba’s Department of Religious Affairs to reopen the University of St. Thomas in Villanueva, which the government closed in 1961.
The young people made their request in writing, sending additional copies of the request to the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba and to the Apostolic Nuncio in Havana. They said the request was not to be interpreted as “a demand from a dissident organization,” but rather should be seen as an initiative “backed by a large group of Cuban young people concerned about the sudden attacks from the chilling crisis of values” that has affected the island nation and that “targets the Cuban youth,” the statement stressed.
The young people also emphasized that the initiative is a “citizens’ petition” of the faithful to the Church and the State, and not a political position.
Speaking to El Nuevo Herald, the leader of the Cuban Movement of Young People for Democracy, Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, called the project a “valuable contribution to the soul of Cuban society.”
“Our main concern is for young people, because they are the support and hope of the nation,” he said.
Rodriguez said the “existential emptiness and the crisis of identity” that affects young people in Cuba is cause for worry. “We cannot carry out a social project for the future without spirituality,” he warned.
Rodriguez clarified that the group is not asking for the university buildings, “but rather for the reestablishment of the institutions and the right to freedom of religious instruction.” He said the group has asked the bishops to make the statement known in all the parishes and Christian communities of the country.
The University of St. Thomas at Villanueva was created in 1946 and closed by the Communist government in June of 1961 through a law nationalizing the schools and resulting in the closure of all religious schools.