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How the Church can take the leading role in shaping society

In just under 20 years, the Church has energetically propelled itself from the margins to a pivotal role in Cuban society. What it has achieved here can surely be achieved elsewhere. Note: these are extracts from a longer article.

  • Margaret E. Crahan
  • Cuba
  • September 20, 2012
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In 1993, in the depths of the economic crisis, the Catholic episcopacy issued a pastoral letter “Love Hopes All Things,” an urgent call for dialogue, reconciliation and moral reform. It argued that the time had come for a review of government economic programs undercut by excessive centralization and ideology.

This is a theme that has been repeated in subsequent statements and that has found increasing receptivity under Raul Castro, who assumed power in July 2006 and became chief of state in 2008.

The church’s call for dialogue and reform has been facilitated by the expansion of ecclesial publications such as Palabra Nueva and Espacio Laical and the 2011 establishment of the Felix Varela Center in a former Catholic seminary. The latter has become a center of discussion of current societal problems and raised the visibility of the Catholic Church.

It has sponsored seminars and lectures incorporating Cuban American scholars and entrepreneurs. The Archdiocese of Havana has also established a graduate program in business together with the Spanish University of Murcia…..

….The Catholic Church has also increased its welfare activities, particularly in the areas of health and elder care. Caritas-Cuba is a major provider of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment in cooperation with the Cuban government. Nuns from both Cuba and abroad are heavily involved in staffing facilities for the elderly. Throughout Cuba there has been a proliferation of church supported programs and publications….

….The 1998 papal visit brought together two of the world’s most charismatic figures—John Paul II and Fidel Castro. It came at a time when the Catholic Church had not yet assumed a substantial a role in domestic affairs. Indeed, church leaders expressed disappointment in the aftermath of John Paul’s visit that an expanded role had not been achieved.

Few in the late 1990s apparently imagined that the Catholic Church would become as much of a political and social actor as it is today. The 2010-2011 involvement of the Cuban episcopacy in the release of political prisoners and the ongoing dialogue between the Cardinal of Havana and Raul Castro reflect the increasing space that the Catholic Church in Cuba is occupying. ….

It is notable that the church hierarchy does not appear to be  in favor of regime change, which is supported by the U.S. government and some Cuban Americans. Instead it supports gradual evolutionary change….

….What will happen once civil society strengthens and secular options increase is unclear. What is apparent is that the Catholic Church has abandoned the margins and become a key player in Cuba’s evolution.

Full Story: Back from the Margins

Source: America Magazine
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