HAVANA (CWN) - Cuba's bishops issued a pastoral letter to the island-nation's people on Friday, thanking them for making Pope John Paul's visit to the Communist country last month successful.

      The bishops also said in the letter that they hope the visit leads to a wider role for the Catholic Church in Cuban society, a role which she has been denied since the 1959 revolution. The Cuban Bishops' Conference thanked Cubans for showing their full faith and devotion during the papal trip on January 21-25, adding their thanks to the Communist government for its efforts to make the visit a success.

      While the bishops highlighted the positives of the event, they also recalled some of the Holy Father remarks that were critical of the government. During his final Mass in Havana's Revolution Square, the Pontiff said: "Liberation cannot be reduced to its social and political aspects but rather reaches its fullness in the exercise of freedom of conscience, the basis and foundation of all other human rights." The bishops said in their letter that they hope this observation leads to a role for the Church in society, not as a ruler but as a servant.

      Positive results of the papal visit have already been seen with last week's release of Cuban prisoners as urged by the Holy Father. But, Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina warned on Sunday that the clemency shown to the 300 inmates should not be interpreted as a green light for unrestricted dissent.

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February 17, 1998 volume 9, no. 34          DAILY CATHOLIC

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