HAVANA TIMES — The Archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega, one of the key figures of the political thaw in Cuba, resigned as head of the Catholic Church on the island, informed the Vatican on Tuesday.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Ortega, 79, as archbishop of Havana, noted dpa news.
The cardinal will be replaced at the head of Cuban Catholic Church by the current archbishop of the eastern city of Camagüey, Juan de la Caridad Garcia.
Ortega’ s exit was expected for exceeding the 75 year age that the Vatican usually sets for the retirement of its bishops.
The leader of the Catholic Church on the island was one of the mediators in the historic thaw between the United States and Cuba launched in December 2014.
During the secret negotiation process, Ortega traveled to Washington to personally deliver a letter from Pope Francis addressed to US President Barack Obama. The pontiff is seen as one of the architects of the thaw between the two lingering Cold War enemies.
Cardinal Ortega has long been a recognized as a negotiator by the Castro regime. The archbishop successfully mediated in 2010 for the release of scores of political prisoners.
Ortega also convinced the government to tolerate the peaceful opposition marches on a predetermined path organized every Sunday by the Ladies in White opposition group. Nonetheless, State Security agents and police, in both plain clothes and uniform, often cart off many of them to jail for short term arrests.