Vatican minister to visit Cuba in June

Published 3:53 pm Thursday, May 6, 2010

HAVANA (AP) — The Vatican’s foreign minister is coming to Cuba next month to lead discussions on the island’s economic challenges and the effects of emigration and the families torn apart by it.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Dominique Mamberti will mark Catholic Social Week June 12-20 by leading discussions among church leaders from around the island, as well as elders from other religions, said Orlando Marquez, spokesman for Havana’s Conference of Bishops.

Topics debated will include “the necessity for dialogue and reconciliation among Cubans,” specifically the divide between islanders and those who left for the United States and now form part of the outspoken Cuban-American exile community. Also on the agenda are “the challenges the nation’s economy faces” and “the complexities of today’s Cuban society,” according to a statement from the Havana Archbishop’s Office.

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Mamberti is the first top Vatican official to come since Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state to Pope Benedict XVI, visited Cuba in February 2008.

Word of Mamberti’s visit comes as the church has played an increasingly visible role in helping soothe tensions over Cuba’s human rights record — while also raising concerns about economic woes.

Island authorities have pledged to allow a dissident group, the Damas de Blanco, to hold their traditional Sunday march for the rest of May after Cuba Cardinal Jaime Ortega negotiated an agreement. The march had been blocked, provoking ugly standoffs with government counter-protesters, the previous three weeks.