Friday, May 2, 2008

Pope prods Cuba on religious freedom

Vatican, May. 2, 2008 (

Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) called for greater freedom for the Church in Cuba, during a May 2 meeting with the bishops of that country.

As the Cuban bishops finished their ad limina visit, the Holy Father observed that the conditions facing the Church in Cuba had undergone a "profound change" in the past 20 years, and particularly since the 1998 visit to Havana by Pope John Paul II (bio - news). He praised the vitality of Cuban Catholicism, even as he encouraged the bishops to make greater efforts to spur lay activism.

The formation of a "committed laity" is a worthy goal for Church leaders in Cuba, the Pope said. With solid religious education and spiritual support, he added, lay Catholics "will be able to offer convincing testimony of their faith in all areas of society."

In speaking about the evangelization that lay Catholics can accomplish, the Pope made the pointed comment: "It is my hope that the Church in Cuba, in keeping with her legitimate aspirations, may enjoy normal access to the social communications media." The Cuban bishops have frequently sought to break down the government's restrictions on Catholic broadcasting and publishing activities.

Continuing his remarks on the role of the laity, the Pope asked the bishops to ensure that all Cubans, especially the young, learn to appreciate "the true values of marriage and the family." Again he added a pointed comment, saying that parents should be allowed to exercise "their fundamental right to a religious and moral education for their children"-- a reference to the bishops' drive to allow the establishment of Catholic schools.

The Pope said that he hoped for "an increase in vocations" to the priesthood and religious life in Cuba, along with the provision of an adequate number of churches to accommodate the faithful.

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