April 7-9, 2000
volume 11, no. 70
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Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


    ROME ( - While the world is concerned for the plight of little Elian Gonzales, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, undisturbed behind the scenes, is leading a cruel campaign against the Church and against human rights activists, according to sources in Havana.

    Elian Gonzales, 6, is in the custody of relations in Miami after arriving in November, saved from a refugee boat that sank in the crossing, killing his mother and 10 others. The boy has become the focus of the conflict between the Cuban-American community that wants to keep him in the United States to save him from Cuba's "regime of terror" and Castro and his Communist government who want the boy returned.

    For several months, while the Elian story has become an international media circus, the Catholic Church has been repeatedly targeted in Cuba, according to the sources. "There is a sort of war to destroy the influence and prestige of the Church" which had acquired "so much credibility in the eyes of the people since the visit of John Paul II" two years ago, they said.

    The anti-Church campaign has used the story of Elian and the American Dominican nun Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, with whom the boy's Cuban grandmothers stayed in January. Last month, Cuban television showed a spot of the nun who, thanks to computer technology, gradually turned into a devil. Government newspapers refer to the nun as "Sister Dollar" and a "sexual pervert." Havana police have publicly announced that anyone openly defending the nun will be fined 2500 pesos, about ten times an average Cuban wage.

    In the schools, teachers tell the children that Elian has been "kidnapped" and that it is "God's fault." Another source said: "Children who have begun to come in large numbers regularly to catechism, are beginning to ask: Why does God allow this kidnapping? Why does the Church want it to continue? Why don't the priests do something?"

    Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino of Havana has consistently said since December that the boy should be reunited with his father, but official newspapers refused to print it for ten days. In February, the cardinal denounced the fact that the Elian case was used to attack Pope John Paul II, citing a television program in which a speaker asked, "How can he (the Pope) celebrate the birth of the Child Jesus when little Elian is still held captive?"

    After the Pope's visit there had been some opening, with more television space for the cardinal, Christmas restored as a regular annual holiday, and a national Congress on the Church's Social Doctrine in December with the participation of Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran, the Holy See secretary for relations with states.

    But sources said these small signs of opening are ever fewer and are giving way to more control. Last December, a meeting at the national shrine of Cobre, for which more than 1,000 young people had registered, was cancelled by the authorities the day before. Other events for which permits had been issued have also been cancelled without explanation and secret police have been checking homilies and watching movements.

    The Communist government's two main concerns, according to observers, are the increasing collaboration between dissidents and Christians to discuss the Church's teachings on human rights and dignity and the increasing numbers of people, especially young people, returning to the Church. "Our young people want the Church," one source said. "They are beginning to realize that the state denies God, prevents them from becoming fully human beings, with inalienable rights and dignity hitherto unknown."


April 7-9, 2000
volume 11, no. 70

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