Archbishop John Favalora of Miami traveled to Cuba on Monday to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Santiago but was told by the Cuban government he could not enter the country with the food and religious donations which he had brought with him.
Upon returning to the Miami airport on Monday, Archbishop Favalora said his delegation arrived in Cuba with 21 large duffel bags filled with medicine and religious items but Cuban officials said without explanation that he could not enter the country with the bags
"It wasn't until this morning that we were told that they would not accept them," Favalora said after arriving at Miami International Airport. "We either had to leave them there or bring them home and of course if we left them there it might be used by the government, and we just refused to do that. And so, unfortunately, we had to bring those 21 bags of humanitarian and spiritual aid back home with us," he said, adding that the Archdiocese will seek other means of delivering the donations.
Msgr. Tomas Marin, chaplain of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department and member of the delegation that accompanied the Archbishop, told reporters, “They did not give us any reasons. They only said we could not deliver them.” Archbishop Favalora travelled to Cuba with 16 priests and lay people.
Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who has travelled to Cuba several times and joined Favalora on the latest trip, said he has been moved by the strength of faith shown by Cubans.
"The churches were relatively empty in '89," he said. "Today, the people don't fit in the churches of Cuba."
Meanwhile, on Monday the Cuban government released 3 of the 75 dissidents that received prison sentences ranging from 8 to 28 years in April of 2003, for health reasons. Although six were expected to be released, the government only waived the sentences of Marcelo Lopez, Magarito Broche and journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe.