Cuba Bishops Lament Breakdown in Family Life

HAVANA, DEC. 18, 2001 ( Cuba´s Catholic bishops say they were saddened that many of the island´s families are separated by divorce and exile, and they called for family unity this Christmas season, according to the Associated Press.

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In their annual Christmas message, the bishops´ conference also remembered the families affected by Hurricane Michelle, which hit the island in early November.

«There are so many families divided, separated by divorce,» the message said. «It is a minority of children and adolescents who can sit down with mama and papa on the night of the 24th, Christmas Eve, to eat Christmas dinner.»

The bishops said they hoped Cuban children would learn the true meaning of Christmas, «which is not just a day off from work or school, but a feast day, the feast of the birth of Jesus.»

The message was distributed to the news media on Monday and will be read in churches during Mass this Sunday.

Cuba´s communist government declared Christmas an official holiday once again in 1998, fulfilling a request by John Paul II, who visited the island in January of that year. For many years under Fidel Castro´s government, Dec. 25 was just another day on the calendar.

The bishops also took note of families with relatives who left the country. «For not a few, this will be the first year that a brother, a daughter, a grandchild, a husband or a mother are absent.» They added: «For many others, this is an old experience that they have never grown used to.»

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