DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     January 6, 1999     vol. 10, no. 3

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          HAVANA (CWNews.com) - Calling for a "new evangelization" of Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino of Havana has launched a program in which thousands of copies of the Gospel of St. Matthew will be distributed all across the island nation.

          The distribution of the Gospel, in a pocket-sized booklet of 112 pages, began at the New Year's day Mass in the Havana cathedral. The copies of the Gospel, which were printed with financial help from Mexican Catholic donors, carry on their covers a reproduction of Rembrandt's famous work, "The Prodigal Son." The booklets will eventually be distributed in every diocese in Cuba.

          The Gospel of St. Matthew is the third to be distributed in such a way throughout Cuba. In 1997 the Church passed out copies of St. Mark's Gospel, and in 1998 copies of St. Luke's Gospel. The Gospel of St. John will be distributed in the year 2000, completing the cycle of four Gospels in time for the Jubilee.

          Cardinal Ortega told worshippers at the cathedral that the task of evangelization is the duty of all Christians. He urged his people to "walk along the way with those who have no belief, and those who believe in magic and find their security in primitive rites." He also called upon Catholics to reach out toward "those who are bowed down by the miseries of the life, those who lack the basic necessities, those who have only a superficial religious life -- which makes difficult for them to grasp more deeply the principles and commitments that characterize a true faith."

          Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. President Bill Clinton on Tuesday announced new changes in the US policy toward Cuba to encourage increased contact between Cubans and Americans which he said he hopes will lead to changes in the Communist country.

          Clinton's changes include an expansion of the amount of cash transfers allowed between private Americans and Cubans, limited direct flights between the countries, and proposals for US food sales and direct mail service. "These steps are designed to help the Cuban people without strengthening the Cuban government," Clinton said in a statement. "They are consistent with our policy of keeping pressure on the regime for democratic change -- through the embargo and vigorous diplomatic initiatives -- while finding ways to reach out to the Cuban people through humanitarian efforts and help in developing civil society." Administration officials stressed that the proposals do not signal a weakening of the 38-year-old trade embargo.

          Critics of the Castro regime said the initiatives only mask Clinton's true aim. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, said the administration secretly maintains its "true intention of normalizing relations with the Cuban dictator," Fidel Castro. Administration officials contend that the ground for the policy shift was laid by Pope John Paul II's historic visit to the Communist country last year and insist that they will only help to promote democracy without aiding Castro.

          In a related story out of Rome, the Pope might stop in Cuba on his way to Mexico later in January, according to a story in the Italian media.

          The daily newspaper Il Messagero, in its January 3 editions, suggested that the Holy Father might visit Cuba either on his way to Mexico or on his return trip from the United States. The Pope's current schedule calls for him to reach Mexico on January 22, and return from St. Louis to Rome on January 28.

          Il Messagero pointed out that both Havana's Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro have said they would welcome a new visit by the Pontiff, whose trip to Cuba in January 1998 paved the way for some historic changes in the island nation.

          The newspaper added that Vatican sources would not comment on the possibility of a papal stopover in Havana, except to say that it was "technically possible," if difficult, to make last-minute changes in the Pope's itinerary. Papal spokesmen said that any such change in plans would be determined by the Pope himself.

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.

January 6, 1999       volume 10, no. 3


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