Skip to comments.Cuba Returns Catholic Church Properties
Posted on 05/03/2014 11:23:32 AM PDT by NYer
HAVANA TIMES The return of property from the churches seized by the Cuban government after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 is more and more a fact.
At this time, the correct word is process, because it is an initiative begun some years ago that has not stopped, says from Havana Msgr. José Félix Pérez, associate secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba.
With this step we can rehabilitate places for services and pastoral action in cities where the religious communities had to meet in private homes or uncomfortable spaces, the prelate says. Thus, we have gotten back chapels and temples in Santiago de Cuba, Bayamo, Camagüey and Havana, in addition to Cienfuegos.
In the past 50 years, the Catholic Church has not had the wherewithal to build new temples and places of worship, so we greet this decision with much gratitude, because it is a way to recognize that the Church needs these sites (buildings and spaces) and that, with those acts, a better relationship between Church and State is enabled, Pérez says.
Father Ignacio Cruz Magariño was born just across the street from the old College of the Jesuit Fathers, an iconic building in the city of Cienfuegos, 240 kilometers southeast of Havana.
According to him, although the school did not function as such since the 1940s, in 1961 it was nationalized by virtue of a law that made all learning centers in Cuba public schools and turned over the buildings to the Ministry of Education.
As a member of the Society of Jesus and the priest assigned to the temple, Ignacio participated in several requests and conversations held since the 1960s. The talks led to the reacquisition of parts of the building until the Church regained it fully in November 2013.
There is no document that certifies the turnover, but it has been effective because, a few weeks later, the offices and warehouses of state-run entities that occupied the ground floor were moved to other sites, Cruz Magariño says.
Something similar occurred with the home of the parish priest in nearby Palmira, for many years utilized as a public library, and with the chapels in some sugar mills, according to the bishop of the Diocese of Cienfuegos/Trinidad, Domingo Oropesa Lorente.
I think that they are very positive acts on the part of the authorities, and we understand that in time everything that was part of the Churchs patrimony will be returned. In Cienfuegos, there is also interest in returning part of the old college of the Dominicans, says the monsignor, who sees in the return of the real estate a favorable step, especially for society.
The cathedral is of no use for me alone. It is a space for the people, who can live their faith there. So it will be with the college of the Jesuits. It wont be just for the four or five priests who live inside, he says.
Sources close to the authorities were reluctant to speak on the subject, because they say its a process still not made official by a legal ruling that replaces the abovementioned law of nationalization.
Off the record, the sources said that the decision will benefit not only the Catholic Church but also other religious institutions that owned property and buildings at the time of the Revolution.
That possibility could not be confirmed by the Council of Churches of Cuba, an organization that includes most of the Protestant congregations in the country.
Nevertheless, the scant information available about this process elicits moderate expectations in some members of congregations affiliated with the Council, such as the Anglican Church.
Halbert Pons, Episcopal Church priest in Santiago de Cuba, believes that it will be difficult for many of the buildings to be returned because theyre being used as public schools.
But he recognizes that there is an open channel of communications to obtain grants of land formerly owned by his church that, for various reasons, have been used by the Cuban State in Sola, Camagüey province, and Boquerón, Guantánamo province.
At the Catholic Church, no one can throw much light on the return of sites or the issuance of construction permits for other religious congregations. I think something is going on, too, but I have little information about it, says secretary José Félix Pérez.
With us, everything has happened through verbal assurances that later become reality in the municipalities. They give us spoken guarantees that well be able to use again what once was ours, the priest says.
With obvious enthusiasm, Father Ignacio, a master craftsman in the Society of Jesus, looks at the city block on which he hopes to rebuild. This was a realengo [state-owned land], he says. We just removed more than 45 truckloads of garbage because for years people thought this was a dump.
We know that many years will pass before we can inaugurate the house of spiritual practice that we want, the priest says. Well have to demolish some sections but the building is salvageable. Despite the theft of beams, floor tiles and carpentry, the walls are quite strong. Now were looking into the needed capital, because a million-dollar restoration is not something we can do in a few days. Besides, that kind of money will not be available at one time.
Whats past is past, Father Ignacio says. The present is encouraging to all. Not only because we have an opportunity to fulfill our dream of helping create healthy minds and spirituality, but also because the city will regain a very valuable building.
Thank you, Pope Benedict, ping!
Cuba is so long overdue for a reboot. That nation would be one of the richest in the western hemisphere when the Castro brats finally kick the bucket.
Great news! I wonder what this is about. Any Cuban immigrants out there?
Count one for the Jesuits.
Count one for the Dominicans.
Now we need a St. Francis of Assisi in Cuba to “Rebuild my Church.” Both physically and spiritually.
And thank you to the Anglicans, Episcopalians and Protestants who are providing information.
Very important sites! Now all we need are Jesuits and other clergy to staff them...it’s a pity the Jesuits are a dying order. They did so much in their day.
They were the first missionaries in Florida but were withdrawn after several of them were killed, because St Francis Borgia (the General at that time) felt that the relatively new order could not afford to lose any more members in Florida. The Franciscans came in and did very well, however, setting up a huge mission chain that was destroyed by the British (from Charleston and Georgia) in 1702-1704.
Florida was under the bishops of Cuba (Santiago and Havana) until the late 18th century, when the Spanish set up a diocese in New Orleans, at that time under Spanish control, named “Louisiana and the Two Floridas,” meaning West Florida with its capital in Pensacola and East Florida with its capital in St Augustine. After the Louisiana Purchase and then the accession of Florida to the US in 1821, nobody seemed to want us.
Prior to the railroad, there was not a large Catholic or in fact any population in Florida, and when the French-born bishop Agustin Verot, who had been Bishop of Savannah during the Civil War, became the first bishop of St Augustine, there were only three priests in the entire state. He traveled in a little carriage to all the inhabited parts of the state and baptized many people, both Protestant and Catholic. He died suddenly of a fever after coming back one of these journeys, in fact.
Interesting details - we now have neither Jesuits nor Franciscasns in Florida, not as an offical community, at any rate. But now neither the Jesuits nor the Franciscans could missionize their way out of a paper bag. Very sad.
So I hope these properties actually can be used by the Church again, but considering the current state of the religious orders, I’m not sure.
Its a great day.
Perhaps you forgot Pope Benedict's trip to Cuba in 2012.
The visit was in March. Shortly after his departure, Castro set Good Friday as a holiday, after pope's request. This year (2014), however, they made it official. IIRC, quite a few freepers called the visit a waste of time. Here is the fruit of that meeting.
I suspect Cuba had its reasons that differ from what Romans are supposing here...
So do you think he’s had a real conversion? I hope so. The thought of eternity has probably crossed his mind.