The Cardinal’s Rebellion

No one counted on him. He was a person who accommodated the political mandarins. Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, the Archbishop of Havana, had just left the local parish.

In all the years of the acute economic, social and political crisis that Cuba has and continues to live in, Ortega made very few announcements. He simply took a pass. Many practitioners of the Catholic faith left the church feeling disappointed when the Cardinal officiated over the Mass. Because he said nothing.

He never raised his voice in the name of the nonconformists. He didn’t say anything about the death of the dissident Orlando Zapata. He turned his back on the Cuban opposition. His lenses, it seemed, had another calibration. The reality of the island captured his interest with a different prism.

Maybe the time has arrived. Perhaps his last critical reflections on the state of things in the republic marked the beginning of a more active role on the part of the Cuban Catholic church. Or maybe not. Maybe he’s just punching the time clock and saying a few appropriate words, so as not to pass unnoticed and to grab some headlines in the mainstream media.

In my opinion, Jaime Ortega is the representative of the upper hierarchy of Catholicism in Latin America, less committed to the ills afflicting his people. While ecclesiastic figures on the island come out in favor of certain inalienable rights and a change in the politics of the Castro government, Ortega maintains silence.

His work as a mediator for the Ladies in White ought to go beyond fulfilling an express request of the government. Perhaps once and for all he is assuming the role that he has avoided performing: that of an important actor in the social life of his country.

We are in a crucial moment for the future of Cuba. Definitely, the Cardinal should look at Poland in the 1970s and 1980s.

To remember the leadership of an archbishop of Krakow called Karol Wojtyla. To review the role performed by the Catholic church in the Polish transition. Jaime Ortega can and should be a firm point of dialogue between two parties with the tendency toward emotional speech and apocalyptic monologues.

The best sign of acceptance of his recent action in this spring of 2010 was something I heard on the street: “Finally the Cardinal has taken off his toga and put on his pants,” commented a bookseller, not very far from the Archbishopric of Havana, in the old part of the city.

Such an authority should not speak just in the name of God. He should also speak out in the voice of those who don’t have one.

Iván García

Translated by Regina Anavy