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Cardinal Martino to present Catholic social teaching in Cuba
The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is traveling to Cuba this week, to introduce the new Compendium of Catholic social teaching.
Cardinal Renato Martino hopes to speak with Fidel Castro during his visit to Havana, although government officials have not yet responded to a request for a meeting. He will also travel to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico before returning to Rome.
The Italian prelate, who will be in Havana from February 15 to 18, to present the new volume that encapsulates the social teachings of the Church. Cardinal Martino has already introduced the book, published in October 2004, on trips to Mexico, Russia, Brazil, Tanzania, Germany, Angola, and Thailand.
Under the constitution established by the Castro government in 1976, Cuba is an officially atheistic regime. Although the government claims to guarantee religious freedom, in practice there are severe constraints on church activities.
Castro granted some concessions to the Church, including the release of some prisoners of conscience, in January 1998, when Pope John Paul II (bio - news) made his historic visit to the island nation. But in September 2003 the Cuban Catholic bishops charged in a public statement that the regime was moving back from its commitments to expand religious freedom.
Last December, after a visit to Havana and a meeting with Castro, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa said that the Cuban strongman had issued an informal invitation for Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) to visit. Cardinal Bertone said that he had passed along that message to the Pontiff. He also said that Castro referred to the Catholic Church as “the social institution closest to the people.”