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Vatican official's visit confirms improved Church-state relations in Cuba

June 18, 2010

Buoyed by new signs of openness from their country’s government, and a visit by a ranking Vatican official, Church leaders in Cuba have voiced the hope that Pope Benedict XVI will visit their country in 2012, for the 400th anniversary of the icon of Our Lady of El Cobre.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States—the rough equivalent of a foreign minister—was in Cuba this week for talks with government officials as well as Church leaders. During a June 16 public address, Archbishop Mamberti spoke on the proper understanding of secularism, noting that the concept “would not exist at all were it not for Christianity.”

True secularism, the archbishop said, can flourish only where there is religious freedom. If religious expressions are suppressed in the name of secularism, he warned, the result is “a real threat to that freedom.” A state that restricts religious witness, he said, “paradoxically becomes a confessional state-- no longer truly secular-- because it would make secularism a supreme value, a dominant ideology, a kind of religion with its own civil rites and liturgies.”

The Cuban government, in its statements on the visit by Archbishop Mamberti, confirmed the improved relations with the Church, and noted that diplomatic ties with the Vatican have survived intact despite tensions that arose when Fidel Castro came to power.


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