Fr. Jose Conrado Rodriguez Alegre, pastor of the Church of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus in Santiago, Cuba, stated in a March 14 interview that the problems in the country must be resolved peacefully.
The priest added that he has two parishes: One in Cuba, “and another large one, which is the community in exile.”
“I feel that God wants me to stay by the side of people, and my place is here in Cuba,” the priest told CafeFuerte.com, a website operated out of Miami. However, he also acknowledged that he is committed to the Cubans in exile in the United States, where he spends his vacation time.
“I think one of the things the Church will have to do now is build bridges and help those in exile feel they are part of the Church.” In addition, he continued, these these “bonds” must be “profoundly renewed, especially between Cuban Catholics in exile and the Catholic Church.”
Fr. Rodriguez Alegre said he plans to remain in Cuba to care for his 85-year-old mother, “who stayed in Cuba for me.” He added that there are “thousands of ecclesiastic, patriotic and ethical reasons that obligate me to stay by the side of my people when my people are suffering.
“I am not going to abandon them. The shepherd does not abandon his sheep,” he said.
He encouraged a peaceful solution to the country’s problems saying, “I don’t think anyone with common sense, anyone who is remotely cordial, could want a violent outcome for Cuba. In every way it would be a failure of the spirit and of the heart of the nation.”
“But at the same time,” the priest continued, “there are many ways to kill and to die, to unrestrictedly prolong a situation that results in the death of the human spirit, the death of values in the human being. This also is a terrible war.”
“I am a man who believes in God and I know God never puts his children in a situation without a solution. There is a solution, but we must use every means we have to find it,” he said.
Fr. Rodrigez Alegre said the family members of political prisoners, play an important role in their release. He noted that the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the hunger strike by Guillermo Farinas had an enormous impact worldwide.
“The situation became such that the government was really in a corner and the solution was to begin these negotiations which were sparked by Cardinal Jaime Ortega’s letter to Raul Castro telling him, ‘We need to resolve this. This is a very serious problem and we need to find a solution’.”
Although he doesn't think the deportation of political prisoners is the best solution, Fr. Rodriguez Alegre underscored the inhumane conditions of Cuban prisons and the “true Calvary” that their family members had to endure.
“In Cuba we need to close the prisoner factory,” he said.
He went on to report that his parishioners primary concerns are dealing with hunger and despair. Since young people can’t see any solution, they decide to leave Cuba, and thus the country is becoming “an island of old people.” The birth rate is low and Cuba needs young people and children, he stressed.
The government needs to seriously realize that there are other ways of governing, there are other ways of exercising power that are much better for leaders and that are beneficial to everyone, Fr. Rodriguez Alegre stated.