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June 25, 2017
What's the state of the Church in Cuba?
The Cuban flag. Credit: Steward Cutler via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
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.- Following the Cuban bishops' ad limina meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday, one of the nation's bishops commented that the island is eagerly awaiting change.

“Cuba is waiting for change. Some changes happen faster than others, but we Cubans, whatever our personal ideas may be, realize that the people can live in better spiritual and material conditions, and that things must change,” Archbishop Dionisio García Ibáñez of Santiago de Cuba told Vatican Radio May 4.

“They are economic and social changes, which necessarily go together … There are cultural changes which are rather rapid, especially among the youth who have familiarity with digital means of communication and have another mode of thinking. This makes the world come to Cuba and come to know better its reality. Political change is also to be expected: it is the structures, and above all the legal one, which have to change.”

Cultural change has been the most visible effect of the opening between the United States and Cuba, Archbishop García commented, saying that “there are now more possibilities for travelling abroad, and tourists can more easily come to Cuba. Although it is still limited, the population has a greater access to new communications technologies and this produces a cultural change which is the condition for any other change, because it makes it possible for persons to chance their own criteria for judgement.”

He said there has been a change for the Church in that “there is a better understanding of religion, and the people can express their own faith.”

“Cubans are a religious people, but we also see there is little faith formation. For us bishops, it is a difficult problem to face. However, we are a creative Church which has been close to its people and who is now witnessing their faith.”

Archbishop García also noted that  “we have vocations, although there are not enough. Thanks be to God, we have fidei donum missionaries, both diocesan and religious, but we still need more. But I would like to say that any missionary who come to Cuba and who wishes to work, has much to do because he finds receptive persons.”

An important and positive change for the bishops has been an easing of permits for visas and residency for missionaries, he added: “The situation has changed a lot. I can say that now there are no more obstacles than before, because when a bishop asks for an entry visa for a missionary he does not encounter problems.”

Asked about the buildings the Church is recovering, the bishop said that “this process has just begun. It's already a positive thing. In certain dioceses they have returned some buildings, but it's a slow process.”

“We are working with the state in order that, after 50 years in which the population has grown, we might be able to have the places for worship that we need.”

While they wait for this to move forward, the archbishop explained, “we have houses of prayer, that is, the faithful make their homes available for their communities to gather there. There aren't parish churches with their pastoral buildings, but nevertheless the Church lives.”