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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cuba: Illegal Occupation of Havana Church Ended

Santuario Diocesano y Basílica Menor de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad en La Habana  

The Cuban News Agency reproduces the full text of a
press release from the Archbishopric of Havana on the illegal occupation of a
Catholic church by a group of people in the Cuban capital.

Press Release

"In the evening of today, Thursday, March 15, after more than 48 hours of
uninterrupted and unauthorized permanence inside the Diocesan Shrine and
Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in Havana, the 13 occupants were removed from
this sacred place.

"In the first hours of their stay in the temple, and during one of the dialogues
with the occupants, the chancellor of the archdiocese, Monsignor Ramon Suarez
Polcari, had told them about the promise of Cardinal Jaime Ortega that they
would be taken to their homes under the protection of the Church and that
nothing would endanger their safety, as that had been the Cardinal's request to
the relevant authorities. The occupants answered that they did not distrust
Cardinal Ortega, but the word given by the country's authorities. However, they
said that if those same authorities came to tell them in person, they would
believe it.

"Nevertheless, the unilateral efforts of the Church to end this situation
continued. Again, on the night of Wednesday, March 14, the chancellor of the
archdiocese of Havana went to the temple and, accompanied by Father Roberto
Betancourt, rector of the Shrine, reiterated the invitation to leave
voluntarily. They were also encouraged to leave by the Catholic faithful, who
have not been able to hear Mass on Wednesday and Thursday. Additional
invitations to end the occupation were repeated in the morning and afternoon of
Thursday. The group's response was always negative.

"For this reason, exercising his rightful authority and power, Cardinal Jaime
Ortega addressed the relevant authorities and asked them to invite the occupants
to leave the Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in Havana. The proposal
by the occupants themselves to be visited directly by the authorities for
ensuring their safety was also taken into account. Cardinal Ortega's request to
the authorities reiterated the demand to safeguard the integrity of these

"The action to end the occupation began at 9:00 pm local time, and it lasted
less than ten minutes. The 13 occupants were invited to leave the temple and
they put up no resistance. The officers who carried out the operation had
assured the Church that they would carry no weapons, that they would first take
the 13 people to a police station, and that they would take them home later. 
Likewise, they said they would not be prosecuted for this.

"Thus, this is the end of a crisis that should not have occurred. The Church
hopes that similar events do not take place again and that the harmony we all
desire can actually be achieved."

Orlando Marquez Hidalgo
Press Office of the Archbishop of Havana
Havana, March 15, 2012 

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