Knights Choose Cuban Cardinal for Highest Award

Recognize Mediation in Release of Political Prisoners

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WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Cuban cardinal responsible for securing the release of several dozen of Cuba's political prisoners has been recognized by the Knights of Columbus with their Gaudium et Spes Award.



Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino was in Washington, D.C., earlier this month to participate at the awards dinner during the Knights' annual convention.

A smiling Cardinal Ortega accepted the award -- which includes a $100,000 stipend -- thanking the Knights of Columbus "for the services rendered [...] in favor of our Church in Cuba."

"You, dear Knights of Columbus," the 73-year-old cardinal said, "have actualized the motto of this year’s convention, I am My Brother’s Keeper. Regardless of the distance and the differences in our social or political systems, you have been brothers to the Cuban Catholics and have shown us your solidarity."

The Knights of Columbus established their first council in Cuba nearly 100 years ago -- in 1909. They have recently been working with the cardinal in supporting the new national seminary, set to open in November.

The cardinal noted, “I can assure you that nowadays the situation is more favorable for the action of charity services characteristic of the Knights of Columbus in the Cuban Church.”

Cardinal Ortega began several months ago a process of mediation with the Cuban government to gain the release of political prisoners. Raúl Castro's administration eventually promised the release of 52 political prisoners over a period of weeks.

As of last Friday, 26 prisoners had been freed and left Cuba for Spain.

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On the Net:

Information about the annual convention: www.kofc.org/eb/en//index.html

Cardinal Ortega's acceptance speech: www.kofc.org/un/eb/en/conv/2010/addresses/index.html