Eight months after the pope’s visit to Cuba, there are new advances as well as setbacks in religious freedom in the nation, according to two reports.
The New York Times (Sept. 13) reports that religious vitality and openness in Cuba has intensified since John Paul’s visit last January, with increases in baptisms, ordinations and the formation of church groups involved in social action. There is also a better working relationship between the Cuban government and the Catholic Church. A fledgling Catholic Workers’ Movement has emerged, as well as other Catholic groups that seek to organize farmers and other professionals and to deal with human rights issues.
While the government has cautiously tolerated the new activism, officials have also sought to retain traditional restrictions against religion. Permits for religious processions have been denied as often as they have been granted, and the possibility of independent publications and schools still seems distant.
The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 18) finds that the pope’s visit encouraged the emergence of “civil society — non-political groups, professional associations, communities, and parishes taking action on their own.” Growing incidents of civil disobedience, such as when 55 family members of political prisoners made a pilgrimage to a shrine, are likely to spark broader opposition and the rebuilding of community and trust that has been destroyed by years of totalitarianism, writes Carl Gershman.