Guantanamo bishop moving to a new archdiocese

A view of the facade of St Peters Basilica from the Vaticans Apostolic Palace Credit Lauren Cater CNA A view of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica from the Vaticans Apostolic Palace. | Lauren Cater/CNA.

On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that Bishop Wilfredo Pino Estévez, who has led the Cuban diocese of Guantánamo-Baracoa for the past 10 years, will now be taking over as the new Archbishop of Camaguey.

Announced Dec. 6, the appointment comes after the prelate's lengthy time in the diocese of Guantanamo-Baracoa.

Born in Camaguey Oct. 12, 1950, the bishop studied philosophy and theology at the Major Seminary of San Carlos y San Ambrosio in San Cristóbal de La Habana.

He was ordained a priest Aug. 1, 1975, for the Archdiocese of Camaguey, where he then served in various capacities, including as Parochial Vicar of Nuevitas; treasurer of the parish in Florida, Cuba; National Director of the Pontifical Missionary Works and as pastor of Sant Cruz del Sur.

Bishop Pino was also on the diocesan committee that organized St. John Paul II's visit to Cuba in 1998. In addition, he later served as pastor of Merced, Rector of the Diocesan House, Episcopal Vicar for the city of Camaguey and director of the diocese's newsletter.

He was appointed as Bishop of Guantanamo-Baracoa by Benedict XVI Dec. 13, 2006, officially taking the reins in January 2017.

During his time as bishop of Guantanamo, Pino has had to oversee the diocese throughout many years of conflict regarding the disputed U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

The detention facility in Guantanamo Bay was opened in 2002 as a supposedly secure way to detain terror suspects who were captured from the War in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq, and who were deemed too much of a national security threat to keep on American soil.

Detainees were treated as "enemy combatants," and since they belonged to a terrorist group rather than a country, the U.S. considered as complying with the Geneva Convention to hold them on non-U.S. soil and try them in a military court. Almost 800 detainees reportedly passed through Guantanamo from 2001-2008.

Human rights experts commissioned by the United Nations expressed concern about interrogation techniques used at the prison in a 2006 U.N. report based on information from the U.S., former detainees and their lawyers. According to the report, the techniques were considered "degrading treatment."

In recent years, the U.N.'s human rights head repeatedly asked the United States to close the prison, speaking out against the prolonged detention of prisoners without trial.

Many bishops in the U.S. and at the Vatican have in the past disapproved of the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo and the conditions at the prison, however, the Cuban bishops themselves have typically refrained from making major statements, given the sensitivity of the political situation in the country.

In December 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Vatican officials to seek their help in re-settling remaining detainees.

In February of this year, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his intent to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a proposal that Catholic bishops have long supported.

According to the Guardian, the Pentagon said the release of Yemeni prisoner Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, announced Sunday, has lowered the number of prisoners held at the base to 59, with 20 of the remaining prisoners having also been approved for release.

However, as the Obama administration prepares to step down following the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president, doubt has arisen as to whether the plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center will in fact move forward.

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