Havana Archdiocese Press Release on use of Castro State Security to remove occupiers from Havana church

As we reported earlier today, the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, enlisted the help of Cuban State Security agents to remove thirteen protestors who have been occupying a Havana church for the past two days. This decision by the Archbishop clearly illustrates the close relationship between the Church and the Castro dictatorship, a fact that is not lost on Ortega. For that reason, a press release was issued yesterday by the Archdiocese in Havana in an attempt to explain the dubious actions of the Cardinal and head off the expected criticism and political fallout of his actions.

Below is my translation of the press release, which I did my best to translate as faithfully as possible. The one thing that jumps out at you is the choice of language. The occupiers at the church were not “asked” to leave, they were not “ordered” to leave, and neither did they “plead” with them to leave. In a classic example of  Orwellian newspeak, the protesting occupiers were “invited” to leave the sanctuary.

Office of the Havana Archbishop


In the evening hours of today, Thursday, March 15th, after more than forty-eight hours of uninterrupted and unauthorized occupation of the interior of the Minor Basilica’s Diocese Sanctuary at Our Lady of Charity in Havana, the thirteen occupants were removed from this sacred place.

During the first few hours of their occupation of the temple, and during one of the dialogues conducted with the occupants, the chancellor of the archdiocese, Monsignor Ramon Suarez Polcari, had informed them of the promise made by Cardinal Jaime Ortega that they would be taken to their homes under the protection of the Church and there would be no threats to their security since that was the request by the Cardinal to the corresponding authorities. The occupants then responded that they did not distrust Cardinal Ortega, but they did not trust the word of the country’s authorities. However, they confirmed that if those same authorities were willing to tell them personally, they would believe it.

Nevertheless, the unilateral efforts by the church to put an end to this situation continued. Once again, on the night of Wednesday, March 14, the chancellor of the archdiocese of Havana presented himself at the temple and in the company of Father Roberto Betancourt, rector of the Sanctuary, he reiterated the invitation to leave voluntarily. Neither was the exhortation of faithful Catholics, who had not been able to attend mass on Wednesday or Thursday, missing. Other invitations to put an end to the occupation were repeated today in the morning and the afternoon. The response from the group was always negative.

For this reason, through the use of his appropriate authority, Cardinal Jaime Ortega contacted the corresponding authorities so they could invite the occupiers to leave the Sanctuary at the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in Havana. In addition, it was taken into account the proposal by the same occupiers to be directly visited by the authorities to receive guarantees of their safety. This request to the authorities by Cardinal Ortega sought to safeguard the integrity of these persons.

The operation to put an end to the occupation began at 9 pm local time and lasted less than 10 minutes. The thirteen occupiers were invited to leave the temple and did not offer any resistance. The agents who executed the operation had assured the Church that they would not be carrying firearms, that the thirteen individuals would be initially taken to a police unit, and later taken to their homes. Moreover, they gave assurances that none of them would face charges for this act.

This is how this crisis, which never should have happened, came to an end. The Church is hopeful that similar acts will not be repeated and that the harmony that we all yearn for can truly be reached.

Orlando Márquez Hidalgo
Havana Archdiocese Press Office
Havana, March 15, 2012

The original press release in Spanish is available below the fold.

H/T Jason P.


En horas de la noche de hoy, jueves 15 de marzo, tras más de cuarenta y ocho horas de permanencia ininterrumpida y no autorizada en el interior del Santuario Diocesano y Basílica Menor de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad en La Habana, los trece ocupantes fueron retirados de ese sagrado lugar.

En las primeras horas de su permanencia en el templo, y durante uno de los diálogos sostenidos con los ocupantes, el canciller de la arquidiócesis, monseñor Ramón Suárez Polcari, les había manifestado la promesa del Cardenal Jaime Ortega de que serían conducidos a sus casas bajo la protección de la Iglesia y que nada atentaría contra su seguridad, pues esa había sido la solicitud del Cardenal a las autoridades correspondientes. Los ocupantes respondieron entonces que no desconfiaban del Cardenal Ortega, pero sí de la palabra dada a este por las autoridades del país. Sin embargo, afirmaron que si esas mismas autoridades acudían a decírselo personalmente lo creerían.

No obstante, los esfuerzos unilaterales de la Iglesia por poner fin a esta situación continuaron. Nuevamente en la noche del miércoles 14 de marzo, el canciller del arzobispado de La Habana se presentó en el templo, y en compañía del padre Roberto Betancourt, rector del Santuario, les reiteró la invitación a salir voluntariamente. No faltó tampoco la exhortación de los fieles católicos, quienes no han podido escuchar misa los días miércoles y jueves. Otras invitaciones a poner fin a la ocupación se repitieron en la mañana y la tarde de hoy. La respuesta del grupo siempre fue negativa.

Por este motivo, en uso de la autoridad y facultad que le compete, el cardenal Jaime Ortega se dirigió a las autoridades correspondientes para que invitaran a los ocupantes a abandonar el Santuario y Basílica Menor de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad en La Habana. Se tuvo en cuenta, además, la propuesta de los mismos ocupantes de ser visitados directamente por las autoridades para recibir garantía de su seguridad. Esta solicitud del Cardenal Ortega a las autoridades reiteraba salvaguardar la integridad de estas personas.

La acción de poner fin a la ocupación se inició a las 9:00 p.m. hora local, duró menos de diez minutos. Los trece ocupantes fueron invitados a salir del templo y no ofrecieron resistencia. Los agentes que ejecutaron la operación habían asegurado a la Iglesia que no portarían armas, que trasladarían inicialmente a las trece personas a una unidad policial y que después los llevarían a sus casas. Igualmente aseguraron que no serían procesados por este hecho.

Se pone fin así, a una crisis que no debió nunca producirse. La Iglesia confía que hechos semejantes no se repitan y que la armonía que todos anhelamos pueda realmente alcanzarse.

Orlando Márquez Hidalgo
Oficina de Prensa del Arzobispado de La Habana
La Habana, 15 de marzo de 2012

4 thoughts on “Havana Archdiocese Press Release on use of Castro State Security to remove occupiers from Havana church”

  1. The harmony that we all yearn for? How about the harmony felt knowing you are free to stand on a street corner and speak your mind without the fear of violence. How about the harmony felt by pregnant women anticipating the birth of a child rather than the fear of miscarriage by police brutality. None of us are free as long as slavery exists; as it does in Cuba. How anyone can vacation in such a place is beyond my comprehension.

  2. Short version:

    “The RCC urges the faithful to respect the sociopolitical status quo and to avoid putting the RCC on the spot. The RCC does not want any friction, let alone confrontation, with the powers that be, regardless of their perversity, illegitimacy or criminality. The RCC means to go along to get along, and it has no intention of letting its members spoil its designs or interfere with its machinations. The sheep are supposed to obey the shepherds, no matter how dubious the latter may be, so behave. Otherwise, the RCC will have to ask the authorities to make more invitations that cannot be declined. Now go in peace.”

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