A delegation of three bishops from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is currently on a trip to Cuba to show their concern for the Church and to follow up on hurricane recovery efforts in the country. They hope their visit will help “unfreeze” tensions in U.S.-Cuba relations held over from the Cold War era.
The bishops of the delegation are Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Fla., and Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantu of San Antonio. According to a USCCB press release, they are being accompanied by Fr. Andrew Small, OMI, director of the Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America at the USCCB.
“Our main focus will be to follow up on the extraordinary grant awarded to the Church in Cuba after last year's hurricanes, Fr. Small explained. “We will be visiting those impacted areas and seeing what kind of clean up has taken place since last year and how else we might help the Church in Cuba.”
The Church in Cuba received over $860,000 in grants from the USCCB following Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The funds went to rebuild churches and parishes damaged by the storms.
The USCCB’s Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America oversees the Collection for the Church in Latin America. Last year, over $7 million was raised to support pastoral programs and faith formation in Latin America and the Caribbean.
For his part, Fr. Small was critical of U.S. policy on Cuba.
“Isolation doesn't help change. There has to be greater contact. And the Obama administration has been, unfortunately, encouraging but painfully slow.”
“We need some radical changes, particularly from the U.S. perspective,” he told Reuters. The U.S. bishops have advocated the lifting of the American embargo of Cuba and the cancelation of travel restrictions for quite some time.
Fr. Small said the delegation is also working to show its “care and concern” to the Cuban Church.
The visit follows an unpublicized June visit by Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the U.S. Military Archdiocese. He visited the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo and then met with church leaders in several Cuban cities, according to Reuters.