Cuban Communists Want to Erase Traces of Papal Visit

Verona Bishop Tells of Suffering in Island Nation

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VERONA, Italy, FEB. 27, 2001 ( The Communist Party in Havana has given the order to cleanse Cuba of all traces of John Paul II´s historic visit to the island three years ago, said an Italian bishop who was recently in the Caribbean nation.

Verona Bishop Flavio Roberto Carraro, president of the Italian bishops´ Commission for the Evangelization of Peoples and Cooperation among Churches, went on a pastoral visit of Latin America last month and this month.

He and Father Ottavio Todeschini, director of the diocesan missionary center, visited the missionaries of the Verona Diocese who work in Argentina, Brazil and Cuba.

«The situation of the Church in Cuba is one of suffering,» Bishop Carraro told the Italian newspaper Avvenire on his return to Verona. «The Central Committee of the Communist Party in Havana recently published a document, which includes an expression that has worried the Cuban Church greatly: It is time to ´de-papalize´ Cuba.»

«The Pope has left a mark on the Cuban people, which continues to affect their religious practice; his visit increased charity,» explained the former superior of the Capuchin friars. «The Havana Party (Fidel Castro´s position is not yet known) is determined to make Cubans forget and erase the Pope´s visit. This causes fear in the Cuban Church.»

The Verona bishop said he thinks the Communist Party´s endeavor has no guarantee of success, because «the people are still ´impressed´ by the visit; the sense of response to the Pope´s visit, [reflected] in participation in the life of the Christian community, is still very alive.»

The program to «forget,» imposed by the Communist Party, has a specific objective, he said: «to reduce the possibilities of the Church´s charitable aid to people, because if the Church helps the people, it means there is a need.»

«And this would mean that the revolution has not succeeded in satisfying the people´s needs. This cannot be said, must not be said, because ´the revolution has arrived everywhere,´» the bishop added.

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