Church in Cuba Notes Its Absence from Inauguration of Convent

Local Ecclesiastical Leaders Didn't Appear with Castro

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HAVANA, MARCH 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- No representative of the Catholic Church in Cuba was on hand last weekend at a ceremony that inaugurated a religious house -- and attracted Fidel Castro.



The bishops' conference made that clarification on Tuesday after some media reports mistakenly implied that a Cuban Church official and the Communist leader were at the same event.

The inauguration ceremony Saturday had marked the establishment in Cuba of the Bridgettine Order of the Most Holy Savior.

In the morning, in the cathedral of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, president of the Cuban bishops' conference, officially welcomed the Bridgettine Order, a fact that "was not made known by the media in Cuba," the episcopal statement stressed.

The Mass at the cathedral was presided over by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and was attended by Cardinal Juan Sandoval, archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico.

John Paul II's message of greetings to Cardinal Ortega and the Cuban people for the occasion was read during the Mass.

The bishops' statement explained that the Catholic Church in Cuba had no part in the renovation of the building for the Bridgettine sisters, nor in its inauguration or blessing.

The order's arrival in the Island is due to an initiative of President Castro, who sent a letter to John Paul II, following arrangements made by Mexican ecclesiastical, business and political personalities, the statement explained.

Cardinal Ortega said he offered "canonical approval" for the order's establishment in the Island.

But he reminded his audience that the Cuban government continues to refuse the permits the Church has requested for the entry of 15 religious congregations that wish to come to the island, as well as for "several priests" and "numerous women religious."

The statement also criticized the excessive kindness with which Castro was treated in the public gatherings linked to this event.