VATICAN (CWN) -- After a visit by the Cuban foreign minister today, the Holy See issued a statement welcoming the "renewed will to continue along the current lines of understanding and cooperation in bilateral relations" with Cuba.

      Roberto Robaina Gonzalez, the top Cuban foreign-affairs official, was received today by Pope John Paul II and by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. According to the Vatican announcement, the meetings allowed an exchange of information about developments in Cuba since the Pope's trip there in January. The statement indicated that both sides felt "satisfaction" on account of the "success" of the papal visit.

      The Vatican indicated particular pleasure with the emergence of new freedom for the Catholic Church in Cuba. New developments in government policy has made it easier for the Church to make "a contribution to the progress of the society," the statement read.

      The official announcement also mentioned "significant humanitarian gestures"-- a clear reference to the release of political prisoners by the Castro government in response to a request from the Holy Father. It has been widely speculated that-- at the behest of the United States-- the Pope conveyed to Robaina a supplemental list of prisoners to be considered for clemency.

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March 30, 1998 volume 9, no. 63         DAILY CATHOLIC