May 2, 2008
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict said on Friday he hoped Cuba would allow the Roman Catholic Church more access to the media in the communist country.
'I hope that the Church in Cuba, consistent with its legitimate aspirations, can have normal access to the media,' the Pope said in address to Cuban bishops meeting at the Vatican.
The Catholic Church is the only major institution in Cuba that is not controlled by the state but it has not been allowed to have its own radio station. It has also been unable to build new churches or play a role in education.
The Pope said priests faced 'great obstacles' in their evangelisation efforts in Cuba, and praised the dedication of clergy there.
'I know the dedication and pastoral zeal with which your brothers devote themselves, despite their small number and even amid great obstacles,' he said.
Cuban authorities promised greater Church access to the media during Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone's February visit to the island, Catholic news agency SIR quoted Bertone as saying at the time.
Bertone's visit to Cuba was itself a boost to the Church's exposure in the state-controlled media, with a mass he led in Havana broadcast live on Cuban television.
During his visit, the ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma also published a statement by the Catholic Bishops of Cuba calling on the government to move quickly to resolve the most pressing problems facing Cubans.