Vatican hopes for improved relations with Cuba

 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, left for a six-day visit to Cuba yesterday. Speaking on Tuesday, the same day Fidel Castro announced his retirement as president of Cuba, the Cardinal said he hoped relations between church and state on the island could be improved.. In an interview with the Italian daily paper L'Avvenire, Cardinal Bertone said he was taking a special blessing from Pope Benedict XVI to all Cubans, including Fidel Castro. The Cardinal said: "I go to Cuba above all to visit the local Church, which, despite well known difficulties, enjoys a great vitality. Obviously the visit is taking place thanks to an invitation, particularly warm, from the civil authorities, as well as the episcopal conference." Cardinal Bertone said relations between Cuba and the Holy See were: "relatively good, as both sides recognize...No one denies that in the past, there have been difficulties. But one always has to recall that, unlike other cases, between Cuba and the Holy See there was never a breaking off of diplomatic relations." Cardinal Bertone praised the work of Archbishop Cesare Zacchi, who served as apostolic nuncio to Cuba until 1991. He said: "Cuba is proof that dialogue, if it is sincere, always gives fruits. Likewise, it must be recognized that the Holy See has always enjoyed due liberty in selecting its own pastors." Regarding human rights, the Cardinal affirmed, "All countries have difficulties. And the Church never ceases, nor will she ever cease to make her voice heard to all of them." Cardinal Bertone visited Cuba in October of 2005, when he was archbishop of Geneva. During that visit he was greeted by Castro and had a long conversation with him on a range of issues. "Fidel Castro asked me to invite the Pope to visit Cuba." he said. "Up to now, this has not been possible. In the future, we shall see." Ten years ago, Pope John Paul II made his apostolic journey to Cuba, after which there were some slight improvement in church-state relations. Since 2005 however, the dialogue has stalled. Source: L'Avvenire/VIS

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