Bridgettines Open a House in Cuba

Facility Has Support of Castro

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HAVANA, MARCH 11, 2003 ( Five years after John Paul II’s visit to Cuba, the Bridgettine Sisters have opened their first house in the island nation.

The sisters’ presence in Cuba is the result of the cordial relation established between the abbess general Mother Tekla Famiglietti and Fidel Castro.

The plan to open a house in Cuba arose in 2000 during Castro’s visit to Mexico to attend the inauguration of President Vicente Fox.

On that occasion, Mother Famiglietti said she suggested the initiative to Castro. The Cuban leader sent a «historic and most beautiful» letter to the Pope, expressing his approval of the idea, the abbess recalled. «Without Fidel Castro’s help and generosity, we would not be here today.»

On Saturday, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, blessed and inaugurated the building — a restored and enlarged convent — which the government gave to the Bridgettine Order of the Most Holy Savior.

Among those attending the inauguration were Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana; Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico; and numerous ecclesiastical and civil authorities.

During the ceremony, a papal message was read, signed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in which John Paul II expressed his confidence that the new Bridgettine community will be a strong witness to the perennial nature of the evangelical message, at the heart of Cuban society.

The congregation will fulfill its objective by «contributing to the promotion of genuine Christian and human values in the construction of a more just and fraternal society,» the message reads.

At a separate ceremony, Fidel Castro conferred on Mother Famiglietti the medal of the Order of Felix Varela of the First Degree, the most important honor in the field of education and culture.

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