THE CUBAN Catholic Church, boosted by the Pope's January visit, has entered a new phase in its relationship with the Castro regime, a leading Cuban cleric said on Monday, writes Luke Coppers.
Mgr Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Havana, was visiting Britain to deliver Cafod's 1998 Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture.
Mgr Cespedes, who was closely involved in the Pope's historic visit, told the audience in York that, after decades of exclusion from public life, the Catholic church needed to extend its influence into all areas of life through an "evangelisation of culture": "In Cuba today the only non-governmental institution which is present throughout the island is the Catholic Church," Mgr Cespedes said.
Although only three per cent of islanders attend Mass regularly, he insisted that the Church's moral message was relevant to the entire population, At an earlier briefing, Mgr Cespedes spoke cautiously about the deep impression the Holy Father's visit made on Fidel Castro.
'He was very, very attentive to the Pope during the whole of the visit. There are questions, of course, on which they don't agree. But he was very positive." He emphasised the vital rote of Catholic education in the evangelisation of culture. The Castro regime currently opposes the creation of Catholic schools.
Two weeks ago the President of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Pio Laghi, visited Cuba to ask for permission to establish a formal education network.
"There is already the possibility of non-fornsal education within the Catholic Church in Cuba," said Mgr Cespedes. "Our goal will be to have a formal educational system."