HAVANA, Cuba, NOV. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Vatican's communication council is asking Cuba's President Raúl Castro to allow the Church normal access to the media, so that it can fully carry out its mission.

Archbishop Claudio Celli has made that request during a four-day visit to the island.

"My wish is that the Church in Cuba be able gradually to have normal access to the great means of communication that the new technologies offer us today," Archbishop Celli said in a statement to Cuban journalists. "I am thinking of radio, television and the Internet."

Benedict XVI's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, made a similar request when he visited the island in 2008.

Presence and values

Access to the media was suspended in the 60s and has opened in recent years, particularly after Pope John Paul II's 1998 visit.

Nevertheless, Archbishop Celli said that the Church's presence in state media is still "sporadic," that is, limited to a few interventions from pastors on special dates or events.
As well, there are 11 monthly or bi-monthly diocesan publications in Cuba, but they face many legal and printing restrictions.

Internet use is widely restricted in Cuba; authorities say that satellite communication imposed on the island by the U.S. embargo is limited and costly.
"I know the situation," the archbishop said, but emphasized that it "would be a great thing" for the Church in Cuba to have access to the Internet, "to be able to offer its presence and values better in the digital world."
Despite the difficulties and restrictions, the Church has several Web pages, which have become a point of reference for Catholics both on and off island. The most significant is perhaps the episcopal conference's page: http://www.iglesiacubana.org/

Energies from Rome

Archbishop Celli assured the media that he was bringing a great message of love and affection from Benedict XVI for the island.
For their part, the Island's Catholic communicators described Archbishop Celli's visit as "a great opportunity."
Gustavo Andujar of the SIGNIS-Cuba association of Catholic communicators noted how the visit comes in the wake of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
He said that particularly because of this coincidence, the archbishop's visit will give renewed impetus to the Church's communication, as the prelate brings to the island the first fruits of the new energies in communication that come from Rome.