Havana cardinal speaks at Harvard, exile community reacts

Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega speaks at the forum entitled "Church and Community: The Role of the Catholic Church in Cuba" at Harvard University April 24. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

CAMBRIDGE -- Speaking at Harvard University April 24, Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino said, "The Church is living a springtime of faith in Cuba."

He made his remarks as part of a forum entitled "Church and Community: The Role of the Catholic Church in Cuba" at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. The forum was sponsored by the David Rockefeller Center of Latin American Studies of Harvard University.

Together with Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Ortega presented his view of the role the Church has played in Cuba during the recent past, and his vision for the future.

"The Church is living a spring of faith in Cuba," Cardinal Ortega said. "There is a profound reawakening of the Church."

"We are aware that the footsteps of [Pope Benedict XVI's] visit have left the Cuban people well impressed by his meekness and kindness," Cardinal Ortega said, adding that the enthusiasm following the pontiff's visit to Cuba "will be a special occasion to delve more deeply into that faith that we have seen living in the hearts of our Cuban brothers and sisters."

"There remains then a profound feeling of gratitude and hope in our Church in Cuba and in all our people through the visit of Pope Benedict XVI," he said.

Echoing Cardinal Ortega's words, Cardinal O'Malley also noted that the Church in Cuba has seen great growth since Pope John Paul II made his historic visit to the island nation.

"I am truly amazed to see the progress the Church has made," Cardinal O'Malley said. "I know the Church will continue to play a crucial role."

During the question and answer portion of the forum, moderator Jorge Dominguez, vice provost for international affairs at Harvard University, asked Cardinal Ortega to respond to criticisms made by exile groups in Miami that claim the cardinal is too close to Cuban president Raul Castro's regime.

"From the start of the difficult years of persecution in Cuba there have been criticisms of the bishops of Cuba from the left and from the right, and also within the Church," Cardinal Ortega replied.

"If you start thinking of the Church as a political organization -- many would like us to be the opposition party in Cuba -- but we cannot be that," he added. "It goes against the nature of the Church."

Cardinal Ortega acknowledged the "wounds" suffered by the Cuban people, both those living in Cuba and those who have fled the country. "But these wounds have not been caused by the Church. The Church has suffered these wounds as well," he said.

When asked about a widely publicized incident that occurred days before the March papal visit to Cuba in which 13 protesters were removed by police from the Minor Basilica at the Church of Our Lady of Charity in Havana, Cardinal Ortega emphatically defended his actions.

Suggesting that the protest was staged "by people in Florida," the cardinal called the 13 protesters "former delinquents" and stressed that, contrary to media reports, none of them were physically harmed in any way.

He also spoke of the need for reconciliation between all Cubans, a topic Pope Benedict XVI stressed during his papal visit last month.

"If the exile community is going to have a role in the new Cuba, they need to start now...by building bridges," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Ortega's comments sparked a flurry of criticism from members of the Cuban exile community in the United States.

Typical of the reaction was an April 29 statement posted in the web site of the Asamblea de la Resistencia Cubana (Assembly of the Cuban Resistance).

"Our exile community, contrary to what the Cardinal intends to project, is proof of the capacity of reconciliation between Cubans and is an example of true solidarity with those who suffer the lack of fundamental freedoms and rights in the island," the statement said.

"The fact that Cardinal Ortega utilizes the same detrimental language which the regime of Havana uses, referring to a group of Cubans who entered the Sanctuary of God to call attention on the lack of rights in Cuba reflects that of the oppressors of the Cuban people," it continued.

According to Mario Paredes, presidential liaison for Roman Catholic Ministries for the American Bible Society, who helped coordinate Cardinal Ortega's visit to the United States, this criticism is to be expected.

"Now that the Church is expanding and gaining footing in Cuba, there is likely going to be added criticisms from those on the outside," he said in an April 27 the telephone interview with The Pilot.

"The fact that [Cardinal Ortega] doesn't criticize the regime directly is seen as his collaborating with the regime, which is untrue," Paredes said.

"The Cardinal is doing what he is supposed to do," he continued, noting that the cardinal's role is "to bring people to faith, to call on collaboration in rebuilding Cuba, to bring Cubans to reconciliation."

"It's very hard for people to understand his role," he said.

During his trip to the United States, Cardinal Ortega also spoke at Boston College, the Catholic Center at Harvard University and the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...