Prison Diary LIII: The Cardinal Cuba Needs / Angel Santiesteban

Bishop Siro and Father Conrado

Bishop Siro and Father Conrado

The first time I heard Father José Conrado Rodríguez, on a visit he made to Havana, I was among those at the back of the huge crowd surrounding him, hanging on to every word he said.

To be honest, I must I hung back, because I didn’t know his greatness. My disappointment with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church had caused me to distance myself, after five years of unconditional and consistent collaboration with the diocese of Pinar del Rio.

The last of the Catholics who had made me tremble in my own land, and whom I loved until his death, was my Pope John Paul II.

From the back of the crowd, I heard the words of the priest José Conrado, which immediately fostered a pleasant emotion, giving me goosebumps moved by his passion, his love for Christ and for family. His speech dealt with material deprivation, and strengthening the spiritual, the lack of unity for an inadequate government that could end the conflicts, misery and famine, especially in the east of the country after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Without knowing how, my legs, responding to the call of my soul, carried me up to him and I was only conscious when I found himself looking into his eyes, completely entranced by a simple being, hence so extraordinary, not afraid to say what his heart was feeling. This is my true religion.

He called for an understanding between the government and the opposition, a meeting among Cubans, bringing together the differences and turning us into inhabitants of a prosperous country, with a religious and cultural history sufficient to direct the destiny of a nation.

He asked us to put aside personal ambition, and to respond to the multiple pleas of society to end political differences, that the only thing they have done is promote poverty in a country that had a future marked by the dream of José Martí.

His song healed my wounds, once again I felt hope; but above all my happiness was based on discovering that there was a man of the church who understood my conflicts, knew of my cries, sorrows, desires, shames and showed me solutions.


Bishop Siro with Laura Pollan and Alejandrina Garcia

After listening to him, I remember Bishop Siro, already retired to rest from political and ecclesiastical leadership, giving his efforts to Vitral magazine, directed by my beloved friend Dagoberto Valdes, and to maintain his courses and constant interchange with civil society.

From love and the direct work of Bishop Siro, from his cry for a new Cuba, transformed, evolutionary, in which the family unit is first, I learned to be free, to externalize my dreams and to fight for them without thinking of the sacrifice.

Inside the Cathedral of Pinar del Rio, my yearning for freedom grew, along with the the need to share it, to demand my rights and to fight to achieve them.

Father José Conrado, in his night of cries, made me travel, confusing their voices, at times seeming to hear the other, mutated, exchanged his religious and patriotic reasons, and for moments he was Bishop Siro, in another, definitely, Father Conrado, who joined the geography of the national Catholic map, beginning with Bishop Díaz de Espada, Father José Agustín Caballero, the priest Félix Varela, Bishop Siro, Monsignor Pedro Meurice, and now, with a candle in his word, Father José Conrado Rodríguez, Who from the first moment, irradiated by the brightness of his eyes, I discerned as the Cardinal Cuba needs.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison 1580. July 2013

Posted in The Children Nobody Wanted on 2 September 2013