MADRID, Spain, DEC. 21, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The first team of three priests from the Spanish Institute of Foreign Missions left for Cuba this week.
The missionaries are going to work in the Diocese of Ciego de Avila, in central Cuba, where they will help the four diocesan priests who care for 445,000 inhabitants.
Father Antonio López Sánchez, 65, of the Diocese of Albacete, has worked in Colombia, Peru and Nicaragua. Father Ángel Belloso, 56, of the Diocese of Barcelona, spent 30 years in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Father Juan Pozuelo, 44, of the Diocese of Ciudad Real, has worked in the Dominican Republic.
The idea of sending missionaries was first discussed five years ago, and bolstered by John Paul II´s visit to Cuba in 1998. It was not until June of this year that the plan was confirmed.
In response to requests from Cuban bishops and from the episcopal conference itself, last June the missionary group visited Cuba and, in consultation with the Cuban Church, the Diocese of Ciego de Avila was chosen.
In addition to the handful of diocesan priests, Ciego de Avila has three religious communities for women. In past decades it was difficult for missionaries to get permission to work in Cuba.