Cuba’s Cardinal Ortega Confronts Himself

Vicente Morin Aguado

Cardinal Jaime Ortega (l)

HAVANA TIMES — The July 3 incident at the US Interests Section celebration for US Independence Day involving Cardinal Ortega must be understood on the basis of a development which the Cuban bishop has had the privilege to experience: the fact the Church is losing its isolation as an authority.

Last March, Palabra Nueva (“The New Word”), a journal published by Havana’s archdiocese, printed an interview in which journalist Yarelis Rico addresses His Holiness to tackle the issue with a slight variation of this expression, without thereby changing the concept behind it:

“Pope Francis himself has insisted we must cease to be an isolated Church, locked up in itself, and that we must go out to the existential peripheries.”

Below is a revealing excerpt from the extensive reply from the Havana Archbishop:

“We have not been able to build bridges or to go out and meet others. To go out and meet people does not involve a great journey or having to walk miles. It means, quite simply, to go out of oneself in order to approach the other, and to realize what their needs, expectations and even prejudices are (…)” (Palabra Nueva, March 2015 issue, page 33).

Recently, another journalist, Fernando Ravsberg, offered a plea in favor of the much-questioned religious leader which was published in Havana Times. After 50 years as a priest, 35 years as a bishop and 20 as a cardinal, his list of merits is indeed long. However, pushing 79, I believe that his final task will be to guarantee the media success of the third Pope to visit Cuba in 20 years.

The task of pulling Cuba’s Catholic Curia out of its cloisters is beyond the possibilities of the patient Christian born in Jaguey Grande. His declarations over recent months reveal a religious leader distant from current reality who, if aware of the daily concerns of our people, has no will to address them.

To remain silent before irrefutable facts is unheard-of. The facts are: 1. Though the current government ended up releasing most of the country’s political prisoners, there are still such prisoners and new prisoners of conscience are being added to the list. 2. The repression of active dissidents (in broad daylight) has not ceased. It is actually being stepped up as greater challenges are posed to the authorities.

Jaime Ortega

Faced with such truths, the cardinal responds with silence. Incidentally, with a tone removed from the rudeness our cardinal complained about, the dissident Antonio Rodiles also approached him on the much publicized 3rd of July.

“During the reception, the dissident gave the cardinal a copy of the proposed Amnesty Law, a text he presented this Friday at the Rights and Freedoms Forum. The document estimates there are currently 74 political prisoners on the island.” (Diario de Cuba, July 4, 2015).

It is time to quote two thinkers who were lovers of freedom:

“Freedom is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear” –George Orwell

“Freedom is the right every person has to be honest, to think and speak without hypocrisy. -Jose Marti

That is going to be the Catholic Church’s basic problem in Cuba’s immediate future. It is curious that the abovementioned message, in which Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio speaks of the need to end the Church’s isolation, was delivered as a confidential note addressed to his colleague Jaime Ortega, at a time when they will soon join other cardinals for the historical mission of choosing the new head of the Church.

Time has passed and, reading Havana Times, a well-informed (as well as talented) reader and commentator wrote with a certain degree of irony:

“The problem is that the cardinal doesn’t leave his office and it appears as though he also has no Internet connection. This business of meeting with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDHRN) is something he hasn’t done to date in his political and non-pastoral work with the Cuban government. I believe the cardinal must first become informed before making such a conclusive statement and, if he wishes to avoid being confronted at a reception, he must offer signs that he is opening and not closing his doors on all Cubans.” (Marlene Azor, Havana Times comment, July 9, 2015).

The visit of the first Latin American Pope is still two months away. Below are his words, in response to the question posed by Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper regarding the renewal of the Church:

“I like to use the image of a field hospital: there are people who are severely hurt and waiting for us to heal their wounds, thousands of different wounds. And one has to go out there and heal those wounds.”

Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]

One thought on “Cuba’s Cardinal Ortega Confronts Himself

  • Ban the priests, close and sell the churches and use the money for interest-free loans to small entrepreneurs!

Comments are closed.