DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     February 18, 1999     vol. 10, no. 34

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          HAVANA (CWNews.com) - Cuban President Fidel Castro met with bishops from across the Americas on Tuesday, just after the bishops called for an end to the 36-year-old US embargo of the country.

          The bishops of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM), as well as delegates from the US and Canadian bishops' conferences, were gathered for the first time in Havana this week for their annual meeting to discuss implementing Pope John Paul's call for a new evangelization for the Americas and the state of the Church in Cuba. On Tuesday, the bishops said they hoped for improved relations between Cuba and the US. "It has always been the position of the bishops of the United States ... to seek the lessening and even the ending of the embargo," said Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark, New Jersey.

          The bishops added that they were encouraged by changes implemented by President Bill Clinton in January that would allow more Americans to send money to Cubans, begin direct mail service, and expand charter flights. "We hope they are just the beginning of more substantial changes," Archbishop McCarrick said.

          At the conclusion of the Inter-American Meeting of Bishops, several bishops committed to providing material and pastoral help for the growing Church in Cuba, subject to the approval of the Cuban Communist government.

          After the closing Mass, held on Tuesday, Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Council for Latin America, said: "There will be an effort to send Latin American priests and missionaries to strengthen the work of evangelization in Cuba." Honduran Archbishop Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, President of the Latin American Bishops' Council added: "We have listened to the positive steps made by the Church in Cuba after the Pope's visit and we have realized that there are great needs."

          Archbishop Rodriguez said that the Church in the US and Canada, as well as several Latin American episcopates, have committed material help against "the lack of proper places to celebrate Mass, to preach the Gospel, and to promote humanitarian activities." He added, "Of course, this help will be available in Cuba if the government decides to introduce some changes in the law." In 1987, the Cuban government allowed several foreign missionaries to enter the country, but current law still bans them. In addition, no religion may begin restoration work or build new churches.

          Archbishop Rodriguez said that the Church hopes not only for approval for the construction of new churches but "also the re-dedication of churches that at present are used as public offices or warehouses."

          Noticias Eclesias' Church News also reported that Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega expressed his concern yesterday for the new measures implied in the bill of defense of economy and Cuban independence, being currently in discussion. The bill establishes diverse punishments for people accused of affecting "the fundamental, political, or economical interests" of Cuba.

          On the other hand, the Archbishop of Havana manifested his rejection to capital punishment, one of the penalties contemplated in Cuban legislation and which is being considered to increase in use. "Yesterday much was discussed about common crime and I was following all that referred to the different penalties, such as life imprisonment, capital punishment, and you already know what our position is regarding those penalties. Capital punishment is always a tragic resource that the Church rejects in its doctrine," he pointed out.

          Cardinal Ortega affirmed that such penalty is not a way of solving any problems. "Maybe the problem goes beyond that. It lays in the values, it lays in education, in the family, it lays in many things that must be improved in order to avoid any human being walking in the wrong path," he added.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

February 18, 1999       volume 10, no. 34


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