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No Hope for Religious Liberty in Cuba

by Christopher A. Ferrara

When the Pope visited Cuba in 1998, the same crowd that assures us that Russia was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1984 predicted "miraculous" changes in Cuba  —  as if the Pope were some kind of living talisman, whose mere physical presence in a place for a few hours could work magic.

But, of course, there was no magic. Five years later, Cuba is still a communist dictatorship and the situation of the Catholic Church is, if anything, worse than ever. Hence on July 2, 2003, CWNews.com reported that "Prospects for real religious freedom are foundering in Cuba, according to Havana's Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, and ‘in place of hope, despair is settling in.’" Cardinal Ortega lamented that "It is impossible to defend the Christian position on major ethical and social problems; to gain access to the media, which are owned by the state; to open Catholic schools or to have a presence in the public schools; to collaborate in the resolution of the most serious social problems.’"

According to CWN, "Five years after a visit by Pope John Paul II, which raised expectations of new freedom for Catholics in Cuba, the hopes of the faithful have been shattered, Cardinal Ortega reported." In fact, the Pope’s visit seems to have intensified Castro’s repression of the Catholic Church in Cuba. As CWN notes: "[S]hortly after the papal visit, the government inaugurated ‘a powerful ideological campaign, complete with the sorts of propaganda that marked the 1960s.’" Nor has Castro himself been changed one whit by the papal visit. Cardinal Ortega related to CWN that "in Castro's view, religious faith is ‘something completely alien in society.’"

Ironically enough, Ortega complained that since the papal visit "the Cuban mass media, under state control, provide more coverage for the Santeria cult than for Catholicism. He observed that this imbalanced coverage is an absurdity, because: ‘The dominant religion of Cuba is Catholicism, and that faith is expressed in a practical belief among the faithful, and a popular Christianity that has nothing in common with spiritualism or Santeria.’"

Ah, but Fidel is very interested in the Catholic "ecumenical center" recently built in Cuba, as I have noted in a previous column, and he personally insisted that the center be completed ahead of schedule. Why? Quite simply, because Fidel recognizes that ecumenism, like Santeria, undermines the Catholic faith.

No, the Pope’s visit to Cuba produced no miraculous transformation of Cuba  —  just as the "consecration" of Russia in 1984 produced no conversion of that poor nation. Only Heaven can turn communists into believers. But Heaven’s prescription for the conversion of Russia continues to be spurned by the worldly wise men who look to "dialogue" and the Pope’s personality to produce what only the Virgin Mother of God can obtain for us.