Outrage in Manzanillo Over the Prohibition of Holy Week Processions

Dionisio García Ibáñez made a plea in the Palm Sunday prayer before the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre / Screen capture

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, Juan Ramos, 25 March 2024 — Rumors about the suspension of Holy Week processions in the diocese of Bayamo-Manzanillo, in Granma province, are true, as confirmed to 14ymedio by a priest who asked to remain anonymous. “The Government does not want people on the street for fear of possible demonstrations. That has obliged us to stop doing something that we have been doing year after year. Last year there were processions, and everything was done with the peace of God,” he says.

The priest points out that religious acts have not been suspended, but they will be inside the temples. He explains that Holy Week processions are a tradition that dates back to at least 1952, and “they have been carried out for years and years, depending on how the Government is doing.” However, in 2020 and 2021 they were stopped, as part of the measures to avoid contagion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are very disgusted by that decision; faith has nothing to do with politics and should not be mixed,” he told this newspaper, visibly indignant. His opinion was shared by a seller who usually placed himself at the corner of the church, who didn’t like the measure either.

“I don’t know how long the Government will have the power to influence matters of the Church”

“I don’t know how long the Government will have the power to influence matters of the Church. The Church is apart from the Government and has nothing to do with it. If they are afraid of demonstrations, that’s their problem. But it’s easier to prohibit than to solve the people’s problems,” he says.

News of the suspension circulated from a source that alerted the Catholic media Aciprensa. The article included the opinion of Osvaldo Gallardo, a writer and religious activist who currently resides in Miami but lived more than 40 years on the Island, working on culture and communication projects for the Cuban Episcopal Conference. “[The regime] is very afraid of any large concentrations of people right now,” he said.

“The processions of the Catholic Church often bring together not only the faithful but also a number of other people. So the Government fears, since the demonstrations of less than a week ago are still ’fresh’, that similar events will be repeated.”

Gallardo recalled a case that occurred on September 10, 1961, when a young man named Arnaldo Socorro was mortally wounded in front of the church of Our Lady of Charity in Havana, for defending a prohibited procession and shouting “long live Christ the King.”

A seller of devotional items next to the parish church of the Purísima Concepción, in Manzanillo / 14ymedio]

“A procession can, under the enthusiasm and devotion of Easter, create a breeding ground so that another political demonstration suddenly explodes,” the writer said.   This Sunday, meanwhile, the archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio García Ibáñez, known for his criticism of the Government, which has caused him some problems with the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba, made a plea in the Palm Sunday prayer before the Virgin of Charity of Cobre in defense of the demonstrators who ask for “current and food.” “Is that unattainable? Is it asking too much? No. Our people also ask for freedom. For what? So that everyone can carry out their own project,” said the prelate, who left a phrase to be remembered: “In the absence of energy, we ask the Lord to give us inner energy.”

García Ibáñez defended the right of those who protest to express themselves and argued that “in the vast majority of cases it’s done without violence. On the contrary, they are expressing a feeling. In situations that seemed a little tense the same people have begun to chant ’no more violence’. This is what our people ask for and want,” he added.

In addition, the archbishop, visibly moved, also referred to the massive Cuban migration. “Many of our children go to other places because they can’t find it [their development] here. And there are others who hope to do it. What a pity, if this is our land, the one that God gave us!”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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