Bishops Agree to Cuban Communist Party Interference in Pope’s Religious Activities / 14ymedio, Jorge Guillen Garcia

Parish of Our Lady of Candelaria in the Candelaria municipality of Artemisa (Photo CC)
Parish of Our Lady of Candelaria in the Candelaria municipality of Artemisa (Photo CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Guillen Garcia*, Candelaria, Artemis, 19 September 2015 — Once again Cuban Catholics suffer humiliation by the Government, without the bishops doing much to stop it. After months of official silence about the Pope’s visit, this week we learned – from the bishops – that they had to deliver the lists of participants in religious activities ahead of time to the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

Giving those lists to the PCC is the same as giving them to State Security and the party officials have also decided to place some of their members on each bus where the faithful will travel to the sites where Francis will serve a Mass. We cannot understand why this is happening and why these people have to fill the places that should be allocated to other laity, because the capacity is limited.

However, it is even harder to understand why our bishops accept this imposition.

To attend the Mass of Benedict XVI in Havana the parishes lists had to give the lists to the government. Now, that sad story repeats itself

In Candelaria, the town where I live, at least three of the faithful who originally had planned to go to the Pope’s Mass in Havana, will not be able to go. On learning that they had opened up these spaces, I talked with the pastor so that other people could fill these places and his response was blunt. “We can’t do it because the Party already has the lists.” And he added that surely “they are going to fill those spaces with their people.” I communicated my discomfort with a situation, and that this wasn’t fair and that we should not accept it, but he only argued, “there is no choice, I can’t do anything.”

Something similar has happened with the planned meeting between Pope Francis and young students of Father Felix Varela Cultural Center in Havana. It only took a letter from the University Students Federation (FEU) addressed to the cardinal for him to arrange for the students from the cultural center to share with the FEU the place and time of the meeting. Those originally invited no longer have priority, while the official organization has undertaken a strong campaign in the universities to bring many students, because according to the words of some of their leaders, “we have to be the majority and impose ourselves.”

It is important to note that when we visited John Paul II we were the ones who prepared for the visit and it wasn’t necessary to give any list to the Party, nor to give space on our bus to their members. This visit was a success and we were able to participate in the Masses in peace. All this was possible thanks to the autonomy and independence of the Church with regards to the State, and its being an incarnated and prophetic church that is known to be at the side of its people. But when Benedict XVI came it was no longer the same. The Church had changed its prophecy with building permits and its incarnation for permits for processions.

A youth ministry meeting with the pope was canceled without explanation. Instead the pope met with Fidel Castro and his family

Under these conditions, the Government – with the consent of the bishops – manipulated this visit according to their will. So much so that a meeting of the youth ministry at the nunciature with the Pope was cancelled without any explanations. Instead, the Pope met with Fidel Castro and his family.

To attend the Mass of Benedict XVI in Havana it was necessary for the parishes to make a list of the attendees and deliver the lists to the Government, and their agents were at the doors of the buses to verify it. At the end of the call a large number of their agents who weren’t written down anywhere got on the vehicles, but no one could even ask for explanations. Now, this sad story is repeated.

Never, for any activity of the Church, such as youth meetings, marriages, ordinations of religious or bishops and even the Cardinal, did the organization share these lists with the Government. Nor did they deliver lists to control any of the internal matters, because this is the sole responsibility of the Church itself.

The Church must not cede its role and mission in exchange for favors that sooner or later require payback. For now, may the Lord of history protect us. We are like lost lambs without shepherds we can trust.


*Editor’s note: Jorge Guillen Garcia, author of this article, is a Catholic layman of the parish of Our Lady of Candelaria in Candelaria (Artemis).