Church-State Ties Souring in Cuba, Bishop Says

Pastoral Plan Has to Deal With Scarcity of Priests

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MIAMI, Florida, MAY 22, 2001 ( A visiting Cuban bishop confirmed that Church-state relations are deteriorating in the island nation.

«There has been a certain regress, a freeze with the Office of Religious Affairs, a wintering of relations, at least with the Catholic Church,» said Archbishop Adolfo Rodríguez of Camagüey, in statements published in La Voz Católica, the Spanish monthly of the Miami Archdiocese.

Havana wants the Church to agree to the executive´s plan regarding political issues, «dynamics that are not those of the Church,» the head of the Cuban bishops´ conference stressed.

The Cuban Church needs to clarify with the government the essence of its nature, and what the government can, and cannot, expect from it, he said.

«We would like relations with religious institutions to be based on the principles of a modern, secular state, without privileges for the Church, but also without discrimination against it,» the archbishop said.

He noted that in Cuba, «Marxist and socialist symbols can be sold as flags, but a religious symbol cannot be sold, and the reason given is that ´it is a secular state.´» Yet, he said, this is not how a modern, secular state conducts itself.

The Cuban bishops want the country to «foster the evolution of society through genuine participation of the people,» the archbishop said. If «participation is not permitted,» he said, «the country cannot develop.»

Despite their difficulties, the bishops are looking to implement a Global Pastoral Plan, which has objectives up to 2005.

«Nowhere in the world can a pastoral [endeavor] be structured solely around priests, and less so in a Church with very many lay people and very few priests,» the archbishop said, referring to Cuba. In his Diocese of Camagüey there are 24 priests and 38 nuns. «The accent is on the laity and, specifically, on the youth,» he said.

The bishops´ pastoral plan is inspired along the fundamental lines of John Paul II´s pronouncements on Cuba, and his exhortation «Church in America.» It is concerned with «Meeting the living Christ, by promoting conversion, communion and solidarity.»

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