HAVANA -- The Roman Catholic Church is joining Cuba's booming blogosphere with a new Web site launched Monday that aims to provide a virtual forum for the island's faithful.
"Believing in Cuba" is a meeting place for "those who live, dream, work and hope in Cuba and the Cuban community overseas," according to an announcement on the Cuban Catholic Bishops Conference Web site.
Despite having the lowest online penetration in the Americas, Cuba has seen a flourishing generation of dissident bloggers using the Internet to make their voices heard. One such blogger, Yoani Sanchez, was named among Time magazine's 100 most influential people and recently received a reply from President Barack Obama to questions she posed in a letter.
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However Church leaders were quick to explain that "Believing in Cuba" is intended to be apolitical _ a place "for suggestions, more than complaints," the announcement read.
"These days, digital culture is advancing and one must take note," Rev. Jose Felix Perez, a senior Bishops Conference official, told The Associated Press. "It's part of life."
Perez said it's not clear how much reach the blog can have in Cuba, where only a small fraction of islanders are online and Internet access is slow and prohibitively expensive for most.
Still, the government has liberalized Internet restrictions somewhat in recent months. Cubans can now go online at post offices for slightly less than they would have to pay elsewhere, and some students, scientists and other professionals receive access from the government at greatly subsidized rates.
Human rights and media freedom groups have called on Havana to stop alleged harassment of bloggers and allow more access to ordinary citizens.
In November, a senior Vatican official asked Cuba's government to allow the Church more access to mass media, saying it's an important way for clergy members to reach the faithful.
Relations between the Catholic Church and the Cuban government have improved considerably since Pope John Paul II toured the island in 1998.
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