Showing posts with label Cardinal Jaime Ortega. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cardinal Jaime Ortega. Show all posts

Monday, July 29, 2019

Cardinal Ortega is Dead -- For 35 Years Castro's Opponent

Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana (left) with state and party leader Fidel Castro (1926-2016).

(Havana) Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, retired Archbishop of San Cristobal de la Habana and former Primate of Cuba, died last July 26th. The letter of condolence by Pope Francis was signed - unusual for the currently ruling Church leader - merely by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

Cardinal Ortega was born on October 18, 1936, two months older than Pope Francis. The son of a sugarcane plantation worker was allowed to attend a grammar school. After a year at the university, he entered the diocesan seminary. With the help of the French Quebec foreign mission, Ortega studied in Canada for four years, so he did not experience the first years of dictatorship after the 1959 Communist seizure of power. In 1961, the Communists confiscated all 245 Catholic schools in Cuba and banished many priests from the country. Thousands shouted to Castro's execution squads: "Viva Cristo Rey!" (Long live Christ).

In 1964 Ortega returned to Cuba and was ordained a priest of the diocese of Matanzas. In the course of Church persecution, he was also imprisoned in 1966, because of his pastoral work as a chaplain. After his release in 1967, he became a pastor and had to serve a number of parishes often far removed
FRom one another because of the number of priests decimated by the regime.
In 1969 he became a parson of Matanzas and had at the same time to look after another city parish and two churches outside the city.

Jaime Cardinal Ortega (1936-2019)

In 1979, Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Pinar del Rio, only two years later, Archbishop of San Cristobal de la Habana and thus the country's primate. In 1994, the same Pope created him cardinal. As such, he participated in the 2005 and 2013 Conclaves. Then he made no bones about voting for the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. He justified this step with Bergoglio’s speech in the general congregations that preceded the conclave. This speech had impressed him greatly.

Pope Francis left Cardinal Ortega in office until his 80th year, which is rarely the case under the current head of the Church. On April 26, 2016 he was retired as Archbishop of Havana. His weight in the Cuban episcopacy was also made clear by his participation in the Ad Limina visit to Rome in May 2017, although he was retiring.

The situation of the Church in the Communist dictatorship turned out to be very difficult from

1959onwards. On the one hand, the Church was massively weakened. 150 priests were banished to Spain

alone. A serious bloodletting. Today there are about 350 priests in the eleven dioceses of Cuba. Before the revolution it was almost 900.

Raul Castro with Cardinal Ortega

Special attention was given by the Primate to the promotion of priestly vocations. During his time as archbishop of Havana, Mgr. Ortega consecrated a total of 24 priests. The number is modest for such a long term. However, it is remarkable for Cuba, where every pastoral activity encounters state hostility.

The visibility of the Church in public space was wiped out by the Communists. However, unlike other states where "real socialism" reigned, Cuba maintained full diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The Chargé d'Affaires of the Vatican thus became a visible representative of the Church. In addition, there were attempts to replace the Church by the establishment of a schismatic, regimental parallel structure. But when success did not materialize, Fidel Castro contented himself with promoting Christianity and socialism. A serious division of the Church by Marxist left-Catholics could be avoided.

To make matters worse, that Archbishop Francisco Ricardo Oves Fernández of Havana suffered from a nervous condition and in 1980 at the age of 52 years had to be recalled. His successor was Cardinal Ortega, who had the difficult task of managing the balancing act between the primary tasks and the protection of the Church on the one hand, and the fact that the Church became the main reservoir of political dissidents on the other. One of the Catholic critics of the regime was Oswaldo Payá, leader of the Movimiento Cristiano de Liberacion (Christian Liberation Movement), who died on 22 July
2012 in a "very suspicious car accident", according to Swiss journalist Giuseppe Rusconi.

35 years Archbishop of Havana and Primate of Cuba

From the ranks of the political opposition, Cardinal Ortega was therefore reproached for showing too much restraint towards the Communist rulers. He was the "toothless adversary" of Fidel Castro.

Most recently, this criticism was raised in connection with the Pope's visit in 2015, when dissidents already known in advance were arrested and imprisoned for the duration of the papal visit. Even on the sidelines of the official appointments of Francis, there were arrests, as dissidents wanted to draw attention to their fate. Neither Pope Francis nor Cardinal Ortega commented on this, which was also criticized by Oswaldo Payá's widow. Ofelia Acevedo accused the cardinal of a "hostile attitude towards the dissidents and regime critics."

"Pope Francis knows the miserable situation of the Cubans," said the widow, who was received in 2014 by Francis in private audience. The critics of the regime had hoped for a meeting with the Pope, which was not part of his visit to Cuba.

Since 2014, European media have been talking about a "relaxation" between the regime and the Church, which is true at the political level. On the Church side, it was reached by Pope Francis and Cardinal Ortega. For them, however, a price has to be paid. The Vatican is apparently hoping for a "Christian taming" of Communist rulers, who could then remain in power, and perhaps even should. See also: 60 years of Cuban Revolution - and the Vatican celebrates a bit with.

As usual at the death of a Cardinal, the Pope sends a letter of condolence to the diocese. Unlike usual, the condolence telegram was sent to the Archbishop of San Cristobal de la Habana last Saturday on behalf of Pope Francis, but signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

The reason is currently unknown.

Requiescat in pace.

Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Picture: MiL
Trans: Tancred

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pope's Visit to Cuba: Widow of Oswaldo Payá Criticizes Castro Regime and Cardinal Ortega

Oswaldo Paya (1952- 2012)
(Rome / Havana) Prior to the Pope's visit to Cuba, Ticino journalist Giuseppe Rusconi (Rossoporpora) introduced an interview with Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Oswaldo Payá, a leading figure among the Cuban Catholics and President of the Christian civil rights movement Movimiento Cristiano de Liberacion (Christian Liberation Movement), who came his end in  a "very suspicious car accident" on 22 July 2012 (Rusconi). In the accident,  Oswaldo Payá (Founder and President) and Harold Cepero (president of the youth organization) the entire leadership of Christian Liberation Movement was extinguished. Pope Francis, who received the Payá family on 14 May 2014 in a private audience, knows the situation   well. The Widow criticizes Cardinal Jaime Ortega, archbishop of Havana, whom she  accuses of a hostile attitude towards the dissidents and critics of the regime.
Oswaldo Payá founded the Christian Liberation Movement in 1987 which became the authoritative voice of the anti-communist and anti-Castro dissidents. The Catholic Payá was the central figure of the dissident scene. Three years ago he was killed 700 km from Havana in a suspicious car accident. His name is connected with Proyecto Varela for obtaining fundamental rights and freedoms for the Cuban people by a referendum. Payá gathered the necessary 10,000 signatures and handed them over in 2002 to the Cuban Parliament. In 2003 he submitted  it again with 14,000 signatures, although the communist island regime responded with repressive measures. Ofelia Acevedo had to emigrate a year after the death of her husband with her ​​family to Miami (USA) because there was no end to constant police harassment and threats.

"In Cuba there is no freedom of religion"

For Pope's visit to Cuba Ofelia Acevedo said:
"When I found out, I was surprised, I felt great joy. Surprised because three papal visits within 17 years are a privilege, joy because Pope Francis is especially identified with the poor, marginalized and persecuted. These groups apply to the majority of my people. You expect a message of encouragement and hope by Pope Francis, who inspires them to rise up and go a long way to begin to become actors in their own history, to find the strength to do this in Jesus Christ, the great restorer of human dignity. "
The announcement of the Pope's visit has so far, says Acevedo,  brought  no improvements for the Cuban people.  "The lack of freedom keeps Cubans trapped in poverty and injustice." The situation is no much the same: "In Cuba there is no freedom of religion. There is an Office of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (the only legal party on the island), which is connected to  State Security (the Seguridad). It has the task to  monitor every member of the Church,  to search, to persuade, to threaten, anyone who in his opinions or his conduct is displeased with the government of the Castro brothers. They have the power to intervene at any time in any area of ​Church life which does not satisfy the government. The Church has no access to the mass media. Families can offer their children no Christian religious instruction, because there is no such. The current head of the Office for Religious Affairs of the Communist Party has declared in connection with the Pope's visit, that religious instruction was eliminated by the Revolution."

Pope Francis knows the "pathetic" situation of Cubans

The Pope visits between 1998 and 2012 were an important sign of fraternal communion with the Pilgrim Church of Cuba.  The messages of John Paul II. and Benedict XVI. had been gratefully received by those Cubans who could hear it. "The Church hierarchy refers to positive consequences, because the government made it possible after the visits, that some priests could enter the country and purchase certain equipment and vehicles necessary for the pastoral care, as well as the return of some confiscated property including churches and schools in the early years of the revolution, which were then in the best condition. When they were returned, they were empty, dilapidated or or totally destroyed. Other visible positive consequences are not known to me."
The Castro government announced on the occasion of the Pope's visit, the amnesty of 3522 prisoners. "Until now there are himself among these, however, no political prisoners. In fact, so far the amnesty has not been put into effect yet for any prisoners."
The widow of Oswaldo Payá was received with her family by Pope Francis in a private audience. "We talked to him about the deplorable conditions under which the vast majority of Cubans survive. We talked for the pilgrim Church in Cuba to which we belong and whom we dearly love. We also talked about the assassination attempt of 22 July 2012, the car of my husband, which was perpetrated by agents of the Seguridad. On my husband's assassination, Oswaldo Payá and the young Harold Cepero [president of the youth organization of the Christian Liberation Movement] were killed. We have told the Pope that we are calling for an independent investigation in order to clarify the precise course of events. I think that Pope Francis knows the real situation in which Cubans live. He is well informed and involved in different moments linked to the suffering of the Cuban people."

"If the Pope wants it, he can meet Cuban dissidents"

Should the Pope want it, "he will be able to meet Cuban dissidents".
For some time, the negative disposition of Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Ortega y Alamino of Havana toward the dissidents has been criticized not only by the Catholic opposition. This past June 5 Cardinal Ortega, who was a central point of contact for Oswaldo Payá, gave an interview for the Spanish Cadena Ser,  in which he even denied the existence of political prisoners in Cuba.
"Unfortunately, Cardinal Ortega has on several occasion behaved in ways towards dissidents, not only the Catholic, that correspond to those employed by state security: exclude and insult."
Rusconi asked the widow what her husband, Oswaldo Payá, would say if he were still alive to the Pope. "My husband could hardly have had the opportunity to be in the vicinity of the pope during the visit. In the two previous Pope's visit he had asked the Church authorities to be able to meet John Paul II. And Benedict XVI., but it was not possible. We assume that the Cuban government would never have accepted such an encounter. But I'm sure if Oswaldo could speak with the Pope, he would have asked for nothing, but he would have said, 'I want to hear your word with an open heart and full of hope.'
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: InfoVaticana
Trans: Tancred