.- The mass distribution of fluorescent plastic figures of the Christ Child of 9cm is causing a resurgence of interest in Catholicism with reports that 350,000 statues were distributed across Cuba within one month.
In what is thought to be the first official figures of their kind, a report by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) shows a significant increase in the number of practising Catholics with up to 90,000 now receiving communion weekly.
The statistics were collated with help from Carmelite nuns in the capital, Havana, who bake communion wafers for most of the dioceses spread across the island.
But as churches across the country report an increase in Church attendance in the wake of the baby Jesus initiative, bishops are convinced they have captured the imagination of the people and are putting together another order for yet more of the sacred figures.
In a message to ACN, which funded the baby Jesus initiative, Archbishop Juan Garcia, who heads up mission outreach across Cuba, president of the Bishop’s Conference of the Cuban Bishop’s, wrote that the initiative was the gift of the Holy Spirit: “We beg ACN for help so that more people can enjoy Christmas with the Baby Jesus”.
“We have had many testimonies praising the figures and so just think what Christmas 2006 could be like if we could have more of them, just think what it could mean for people who want to know Jesus more deeply.”
The initiative is being perceived as a milestone for religious expression in Cuba with reports of no difficulties with the Cuban authorities, through the work of the thousands of voluntary missioners who distributed the baby Jesus figures across the island.
Many travelled up to 20km by foot, knocking on doors and inviting people to receive the little statue complete with a leaflet explaining the initiative and the importance of Jesus and the nativity.
They also took the opportunity to visit the sick and infirm and bolster community spirit.
For information about Cuba’s baby Jesus initiative or to make a donation, contact Aid to the Church in Need.