Cuban dictatorship expels superior of Jesuits from the island

Father David Pantaleón Jesuit Father David Pantaleón | Photo credit: David Pantaleón Facebook

The Cuban dictatorship has expelled Father David Pantaleón, who served as superior of the Jesuits, from the island by not renewing his residency permit.

“On the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 13, Father David Pantaleón, superior of the Jesuits in Cuba, left the island because his residency permit was not renewed,” a statement from the Jesuits of Latin America announced.

The communiqué noted that the priest, who is from the Dominican Republic, “is also the president of the Cuban Conference of Religious Men and Women (CONCUR).” Like the Jesuits, CONCUR has been outspoken in defending human rights.

According to the Spanish news agency EFE, the Cuban dictatorship decided not to renew the Jesuit priest’s residence permit for foreigners after demanding that he control the political and critical comments of the Jesuits on the island, something that Pantaleón would not agree to do.

Sister Ariagna Brito Rodríguez of the Sisters of Charity of Cardinal Sancha lamented on Facebook that “the Cuban government, using its faculties of dictatorial power, without principles or values, forces him to leave the country: they fear the truth, they fear the face of good and getting rid of what irritates them is their only way of proceeding.”

“This shouldn’t happen; those who ought to leave the country are those who use power to live as kings, at the expense of a slave people, punished, beaten, and forced to flee,” the nun added.

In November 2020, the priest expressed his support for a group of activists from the San Isidro Movement, who were on a hunger strike to free one of their members they considered to have been unjustly imprisoned and sentenced without a defense. The nun simply wanted to visit them to give them some spiritual consolation and hope but was barred by the authorities.

“All this pains us. We cannot close our eyes and look the other way. It’s not just about who’s right or wrong. It’s not about ideologies on the left or the right. It is about things as simple as the right to live, to express what one thinks, to discuss differences without ‘demonizing’ the opposite opinion, to respect the dignity of all,” the priest wrote on Facebook at the time.

In their statement, the Jesuits explain that Pantaleón, “in his five years of service on the island, accompanied many religious men and women, and the various initiatives of the conference, including accompanying prisoners and their families.” 

“His departure fills us with sadness, but at the same time with gratitude for all the good received through him,” the Jesuits said.

“We pray for the other companions of the apostolic body of the Society of Jesus, men and women who in Cuba bear witness to the unconditional love of a God who wants to gather everyone together into a single people freed from all evil, lies, and injustice,” the statement concludes.

The archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez, offered the farewell Mass on Sept. 11 for the Jesuit priest expelled by the dictatorship.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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