.- Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that Pope Benedict discussed the situation of Cuban dissidents, especially those in prison, during his March 27 meeting with President Raúl Castro.
“The outline of requests, which were humanitarian in nature and which were received by the Holy See (from Cuban dissidents), was discussed,” Fr. Lombardi said during a press conference held in the National Hotel of Havana on Tuesday.
“I confirm that the topic was discussed during the personal encounter, but I don’t have information on the specifics,” he said.
Fr. Lombardi was responding to questions posed by journalists on whether the Vatican had presented a list of prisoner dissidents, and specifically if the list contained the name of Alan Gross.
Ross, an American who tried to help the Jewish community on the island giving them independent means of technology to access the internet, is currently in prison on charges of spying.
The spokesman confirmed that the Holy See’s delegation had interceded for another dissident who yelled “freedom” during the Mass presided by the Pontiff in Santiago, Cuba on Monday.
But, he said that could not offer any further details on the subject. “Our interest for the person and for his status exists,” he added.
The plight of the dissidents “is certainly present in the Holy Father’s heart,” Fr. Lombardi added.
He then explained that it was impossible to schedule meetings with dissidents, such as the “Damas en Blanco” (Women in White) because of the time constraints of the trip.
“Let’s remember that the Pope on this trip hasn’t even met with specifically Catholic groups: there hasn’t been a meeting with seminarians, with priests, with religious, or with committed lay people,” he said. “Another group, whether it is inside or outside of the Church, simply couldn’t be fit in the visit.”
However, Fr. Lombardi noted that “when the Pope speaks, he has present the suffering of these people. It’s no coincidence that the Pope speaks of the expectations of all Cubans, in their varied and specific circumstances.”
“If you listen to the discourses, you will see for yourselves how the Pope receives the messages he’s received, and how he responds to these perspectives.”