Award to "Ladies in White" Cheers Pontifical Council Member

Relatives of Prisoners Hailed for Their Crusade

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HAVANA, OCT. 30, 2005 ( A leading Catholic in Cuba welcomed the European Parliament’s award of the Sakharov Prize to his country’s so-called Ladies in White.

The award given last week recognizes the human rights work of mothers, wives and relatives of Cuban political prisoners, who denounce in a peaceful way the situation of their loved ones and call for their release.

«I hasten to congratulate you with all my heart and to pray to God that he will continue to accompany and bless you in your just and most human aspirations for the freedom and well-being of your families,» said Dagoberto Valdés Hernández, a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Valdés is director of the Center of Civic and Religious Formation of Pinar del Rio and editor of the Vitral review.

In a note he said: «The Ladies in White have been able to be what they are and have kept well defined their identity and attitude as a group belonging to the emerging Cuban civil society.»

«We must all learn from you how to be and how to act as a civil society, without political manipulations or civic ambiguities,» Valdés added in his message.

Silent marches

Every Sunday, these women, dressed in white, to symbolize innocence and purity, go to Havana’s church of St. Rita of Cassia, the patron «of impossible causes,» to attend the 10 a.m. Mass and pray for their imprisoned family members.

At the end of the Sunday Mass, the Ladies in White leave the church and march silently on Fifth Avenue to the clock on 12th Street.

The Ladies in White insist on the innocence of their imprisoned relatives and constantly take part in vigils and fasts.

They send letters to the Cuban authorities and to international personalities and organizations to denounce the situation of the 75 opposition prisoners who have been jailed at some point since the spring of 2003.

The women explain that this family movement, of a strictly peaceful nature, has no political program.

The Ladies in White share this year’s Sakharov Prize with the group Reporters Without Borders and with Nigerian lawyer Huawa Ibrahim.

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