Cuban Priests Are Tired of ‘Two Types of Dictatorships: The Ecclesiastical and the Governmental’

Father Fernando Heria, priest of Ermita de La Caridad, in Miami. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, 5 November 2020 — Fernando Heria, a priest of the Ermita de La Caridad, in Miami, spread a message on his social networks in which he expressed his solidarity with Father Alberto Reyes, parish priest of the church of San Jerónimo, in Esmeralda, Camagüey. On November 1 Father Reyes published  a text on his Facebook wall in which he lamented the fear and oppression suffered by Cubans, in addition to criticizing the silence of the ecclesiastical curia.

“I share the cries of hunger and thirst for justice that a brother priest, Camagüey’s Father Alberto Reyes, has bravely shouted on behalf of all the children of the country, from the throats of our patriots: Mariana Grajales, José Martí, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Máximo Gómez, Antonio Maceo and many other brothers and sisters, a firm cry for the freedom and dignity of los hermanos,” says Heria in his posting made public on Monday.

“For years in each ad limina visit [the visit that bishops must make from time to time to Rome] with the Pope, they always ask: why are there so many Cuban priests who leave their homeland and go to serve in the diaspora?” continues the Father. “To which the Cuban bishops have always responded unfairly: because of the attraction of money. Enough of so many farces!”

Heria explains that if the priests stay in the diaspora, they do so because “they are tired of living under two types of dictatorships: the ecclesiastical and the governmental,” and he thanks Father Alberto Reyes “for making clear what this priest (me) has been telling the Cuban bishops, that it is their fallacy, regarding you, the priests, with the odor of sheep, who are the only hope of a noble people who wait, wait and wait for their freedom and respect for their dignity of being.”

The letter ends with an appeal to the 17 Cuban bishops, both ordinary and emeritus, to shout “enough is enough” and ask that they “set our noble Cuban people free for the love of God and the country.”

In his publication last Sunday, Father Alberto Reyes lamented suffering “the silence of my bishops.”

“It is not true that the Church has not spoken, it is not true, because all of us are the Church, and many lay people, priests, religious, even a bishop speaking personally, we have said what we think and we continue to say it,” the priest continued. And he clearly stated, “This country needs a change, it needs a transition, it needs to live and stop dragging its existence, and at this moment, in my opinion, only the Catholic Church is in a position to lead a dialogue and propose a transition.”

For this reason, Reyes concluded, “the people look to the bishops, and expect a clear position in favor of justice, freedom, in short, the Gospel.”

Reyes is one of the three Cuban priests who in recent weeks has been very critical of the social and political situation on the island. The first was Jorge Luis Pérez Soto, parish priest of San Francisco de Paula, in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, in Havana, who at the end of October said in a homily that “the Catholic cannot be apolitical, that is a lying word that only speaks of cowardice.”

“When a ruler is not willing to resign, is not willing to get out of the way for the common good, for the good of his people, for the good of his society, that Caesar is a tyrant,” Pérez said at a Sunday mass.

A few days later, Father Laureano Hernández Sasso lamented the deafness of the Cuban leaders. “Why do we have to beg? Why does President Miguel Díaz-Canel talk and talk and never say anything? Or do we have to tell our president that we cannot continue like this?” the priest wrote in his Facebook account.

In the past, several statements signed by the Cuban bishops have raised hives in the ruling party. One of the best known was the pastoral letter “El amor todo lo espera” (Love waits for all), signed by the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops in September 1993, during one of the hardest years of the economic crisis after the fall of the socialist bloc of Eastern Europe.

“The fight for justice is not a fight against which one can remain neutral, because this would be tantamount to putting oneself in favor of injustice,” the bishops said in that letter that was directly criticized by official spokesmen, including the journalist Lázaro Barrero, who called it a “telenovela title.”

Two decades later, the bishops published another pastoral letter entitled “La esperanza no defrauda” (Hope does not disappoint), which was read in all the churches of the country and which made a profound assessment of the Cuba of that time: “A new generation of Cubans, born in recent decades, has its own interpretation of our reality, with its own aspirations and interests, different from those of their predecessors. This generation lives with the firm desire that not only the present is better than the past, but that the future is better than the present,” they wrote.

The various declarations of priests inside and outside the Island are taking place a few days before the biannual celebration of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba. Many parishioners and members of the Church hope that a pronouncement on the acute crisis the country is experiencing will emerge from this meeting.


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