HT Photo Feature
HAVANA TIMES, March 18 — Less than two weeks before the coming of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba, the Catholic Church of the island is stepping up an offensive to bring renewed preferential status to a once ostracized institution and gain new devotees.
During the last five weeks the Catholic Church of Cuba has carried out a Stations-of-the-Cross (Via Crucis) in different parishes of the archdiocese of Havana, which ended on Friday in the Alamar housing projects.
Previously, at the end of 2011, the Church conducted a highly attended visit of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre figurine , Cuba’s Patron Saint, to different churches around the city.
Such public demonstrations of beliefs and proselytizing are rarely allowed by any other unofficially organized group in Cuba.
The renewed status of the Catholic Church in Cuba comes at a time when the government has sought allies to implement its economic reforms while maintaining strict Communist Party political control over the population.
The resurgence of the Catholic Church of Cuba represents a big change over the first decades of the Cuban revolution when being an outward follower of the Catholic Church or any other religious institution meant being blacklisted at work places, educational centers and in neighborhoods.
Since 1992, Cuban citizens who practice a religion have been allowed to be members of the Communist Party and are no longer discriminated against by the government because of their religious beliefs.
Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cuba from March 26-28 and will offer public Masses in both Santiago de Cuba and Havana. Workers have been given the days off to facilitate their attendance to the open air gatherings in the Revolution Squares of the two cities.
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