Cuba Welcomes Vatican Official

Trip Marks 75th Anniversary of Relations

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HAVANA, Cuba, JUNE 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A top official from the Vatican Secretariat of State is in Cuba for a six-day trip that already has given him opportunity to express hope negotiations over political prisoners will continue to give fruit, and to reiterate opposition to the U.S. embargo of the island.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states, was welcomed in Havana on Tuesday. His visit commemorates the 75th anniversary of the establishment of relations between the Holy See and Cuba. He will also participate in the Church’s 10th Social Week.

The archdiocesan paper reported that the archbishop was welcomed to Cuba by Church officials and Cuba’s foreign minister, as well as the director of the government’s department for religious affairs. 

Archbishop Mamberti and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez gave a joint press conference, during which the Vatican representative expressed confidence that his trip would strengthen good relations between the two entities.

Responding to questions from the press, the prelate said there has been no change in Vatican opposition to the embargo of the island. He also lauded the work of Cuban doctors in Haiti and Africa, an effort he said he’s personally observed and that gives a testimony of international solidarity.

Archbishop Mamberti emphasized the importance of diplomatic relations, and praised the «dialogue under way in Cuba,» adding his hope that «it will be strengthened with my visit as it is important and the fruits are already being seen.»

Prisoners

Asked about progress in Church mediation for the release of political prisoners, the archbishop denied that his visit to Cuba was in response to the government’s latest concessions.

The Church has been mediating the issue for the last several weeks and has gained the transfer of some political prisoners to facilities closer to their homes, as well as the release of one prisoner.

Archbishop Mamberti did say any further advances would be welcome at any moment.

Later that day, the prelate opened the Catholic Social Week and attended a concert offered by the Cuban government to mark the 75th anniversary of relations.

Thursday, the prelate celebrated a Mass in the Havana cathedral to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. He also participated in the unveiling of a plaque commemorating Pope John Paul II’s apostolic trip to Cuba.

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