Priest laments that only one young person from Cuba present at WYD

Havana, Cuba, Jul 17, 2008 / 06:04 pm (CNA) .- Father Jesus Del Pino, pastor of Guaimaro in Camaguey, Cuba, lamented that only one Cuban young person, who is actually a Spanish citizen, is present at World Youth Day in Sydney, because the government of New Zealand denied visas to the rest of the Cuban delegations over fears of “possible illegal immigration.”

Speaking to the Catholic News Agency, Father Del Pino said that in order to travel to Sydney, the young people from Cuba would have had to make a stopover in New Zealand. Although Cuba’s Communist government granted the young people permission to attend, New Zealand officials refused to grant them visas. Only Father Castor Alvarez, who was born and raised in Cuba but now has Spanish citizenship, was allowed entry.

“It is sad and painful that out of fear of illegal immigration, governments deprive Cubans of the chance to participate in events that would strongly impact their lives,” said Father Del Pino.

“What hope is there for the Church in Cuba,” the priest asked, if in addition to the restrictions imposed by the Cuban government, “limits are imposed on us overseas as well?”

“At least many other countries do open their doors to Cubans, and let’s hope that this poor example does not spread, because it would be very sad to have to endure more restrictions, in addition to those that are present inside the country and those that result from the embargo-blockade,” Father Del Pino added.

“What has happened here is of no help to Cuba or to the Church,” he said.