14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 4 August 2014 – To mark the publication of a letter sent by five young Cubans to Pope Francisco, 14ymedio interviewed Erick Álvarez Gil, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in Havana. At just 28, this young man joined the organization in 2009, and holds a degree in Electronics and Telecommunications.
Question: What are the antecedents of this document?
Answer: This letter was sent on the second anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero, and also two years from the time Oswaldo handed a letter to the Cuban bishops in 2012, which reflected some of these concerns and also touched on the issues of relations between Church and State, and Church and Society. These ideas are still dormant and still a source of concern to us, so we went back to the idea of a letter and put it in the hands of the Pope and also sent it to the Cuban bishops, priests, religious, missionaries, and the most committed laypeople in the Cuban Church.
Q: As I understand it the letter is dated May 5 and was delivered to Pope Francisco on the 14th of that month, but only now has been disclosed to the public. Why the wait time between sending the letter and publication?
A: We didn’t send the letter to any media, the aim was not that the letter would be published openly. Our objective was to send it to the main actors of the Church in Cuba and the more committed lay people. We did that late last week and, as happens in these cases, it is already public.
Q: Have you received any response from anyone about this letter?
A: We have received no official response, but we have received feedback from other young Catholics who have had access to it. An official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba has contacted us to meet and discuss some of the issues in the letter. That conversation should be this week. Also Monsignor Alfredo Petit Vergel, who is my pastor at the Church of San Francisco de Paula, and one of the two auxiliary bishops of Havana, saw me on Sunday and told me of his desire to sit down and talk about it.
Q: What are your expectations from this letter that has begun to spread?
A: Our expectations were never based on the public and mass distribution of the letter, even though we knew that it could happen when we sent out a lot of emails.
We want to contribute to the personal and community reflection of the pastoral agents with the greatest responsibility within the Church, those who can influence the pastoral action of the Church, especially in the political positions taken by the higher-ups in the Church hierarchy. This is the issue that most concerns us, in addition to all the general issues there may be at an ecclesiastical level.
We write from a political movement, we present ourselves this way from the beginning of the letter, which is eminently political. It deals with political issues and how the Church projects itself toward society.
Q: The letter also comes at a possible turning point, for renewal, for the Cuban Church.
A: The Church is now in the process of designing a new plan to guide pastoral action in the coming years and a dialog is imminent and necessary, with the laity as well, where these elements can be considered. There are also some Cuban bishops, such as Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Monsignor Alfredo Petit Vergel and perhaps others, who are finishing their time in episcopal government, and there are imminent handovers in the upper Catholic hierarchy and in the bishopric. The reflections arising from the opinions we offered in the letter might have some influence on the appointments made.