Posted on Thursday, 05.06.10
Vatican foreign minister to visit Cuba in June
The Associated Press
HAVANA — The Vatican's foreign minister is coming to Cuba next month to
lead discussions on the island's economic challenges and the effects of
emigration and the families torn apart by it.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Dominique Mamberti will mark Catholic Social
Week June 12-20 by leading discussions among church leaders from around
the island, as well as elders from other religions, said Orlando
Marquez, spokesman for Havana's Conference of Bishops.
Topics debated will include "the necessity for dialogue and
reconciliation among Cubans," specifically the divide between islanders
and those who left for the United States and now form part of the
outspoken Cuban-American exile community. Also on the agenda are "the
challenges the nation's economy faces" and "the complexities of today's
Cuban society," according to a statement from the Havana Archbishop's
Mamberti is the first top Vatican official to come since Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state to Pope Benedict XVI, visited Cuba
in February 2008.
Word of Mamberti's visit comes as the church has played an increasingly
visible role in helping soothe tensions over Cuba's human rights record
– while also raising concerns about economic woes.
Island authorities have pledged to allow a dissident group, the Damas de
Blanco, to hold their traditional Sunday march for the rest of May after
Cuba Cardinal Jaime Ortega negotiated an agreement. The march had been
blocked, provoking ugly standoffs with government counter-protesters,
the previous three weeks.
Ortega also made headlines April 19 when he said in an interview with
the church's monthly magazine that Cuba is facing its worst crisis in
years, and that its citizens are openly demanding political and social
Relations between the church and Cuba's government have often been
strained. Tensions eased in the early 1990s when the government removed
references to atheism in the constitution and allowed believers of all
faiths to join the Communist Party. They warmed more when Pope John Paul
II visited Cuba in 1998.