Tags: Cuba's | Castro | Sends | Condolences | Vatican

Cuba's Castro Sends Condolences to Vatican

Sunday, 03 April 2005 12:00 AM

The Cuban leader also highlighted the pope's historic January 1998 visit to the island, saying it will remain "engraved in the memory of our nation as a transcendent moment in relations between the Vatican State and the Republic of Cuba."

Cuba became officially atheist in the years after the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power, but the government removed references to atheism in the constitution more than a decade ago and allowed religious believers to join the Communist Party.

Relations between churches and the Cuban state climaxed in January 1998 with John Paul's visit.

The official bell ringer at Havana's towering cathedral rang the church's bells every half hour in John Paul's honor, and a funeral Mass for the pope was to be celebrated at the cathedral Monday evening by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the island's top Roman Catholic official.

Afterward, the Cuban prelate planned to travel to Rome to attend the pope's funeral there and participate in the conclave of cardinals that will elect John Paul's successor.

The Cuban government said it would send a high-level delegation to the pope's funeral, but it was not yet clear who would head it.

State-run media covered little of the news leading up to the pope's death, but once his death was announced, the news was broadcast across the island on the government's Radio Rebelde.

Much of Sunday's Juventud Rebelde was dedicated to the pope, with the state decree about official mourning on the island printed on the front page.

The Cuban flag was to fly at half-staff on public buildings and military installations for three days, and several events, including anniversary celebrations for communist organizations and baseball games, were suspended.

The decree praised the pope for all of his efforts "in favor of solutions for many social ills affecting humanity," as well as for publicly criticizing four decades of U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba.

A book of condolences for John Paul was to be opened for signing Sunday afternoon.

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The Cuban leader also highlighted the pope's historic January 1998 visit to the island, saying it will remain "engraved in the memory of our nation as a transcendent moment in relations between the Vatican State and the Republic of Cuba." Cuba became officially atheist in...
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Sunday, 03 April 2005 12:00 AM
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