Cuba faces priest shortage due to migration, resignations of younger Catholic clergy

Seven young priests who have left the diocese of Camaguey

From our Bureau of Churches in Captivity with some assistance from our Bureau of Troublesome Priests

Father Alberto Reyes — who was recently reprimanded for ringing church bells during blackouts — is not the only priest in his diocese to encounter resistance from his local bishop. At least seven young priests have left the Camaguey diocese, some due to the bishop’s coziness with Castro, Inc., others due to the intolerable conditions under which all Cubans live.

As a result, the Catholic Church in Camaguey is now staffed mostly by priests in their eighties and seventies, that is, by priests who have spent their entire ministry under the repressive control of Castro, Inc.

Whether or not the situation in Camaguey is typical of all of Cuba is not clear. The article below focuses solely on Camaguey, but what it reveals about its Bishop Wilfredo Pino seems to indicate that all or most of Cuba’s bishops prefer to act according to the guidelines set by the late Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who preferred to support the dictatorship and stifle dissent.

Stay tuned. This story could lead to similar investigations by independent journalists in other Cuban dioceses.

From Cubanos Por El Mundo, by Luis Perdomo

At least seven young priests have left the Archdiocese of Camagüey in recent years for various reasons.

This exodus from the ecclesiastical district affects not only the Catholic Church but also society and communities, making pastoral work more difficult.

Most of the clerics emigrated, including one who benefited from the humanitarian parole program, a U.S. initiative for citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Haiti who live under oppressive dictatorships.

One decided to hang up his cassock and start a family, while others had irreconcilable differences with the current Archbishop of Camagüey, Monsignor Wilfredo Pino Estévez, prompting them to move to other dioceses, within or outside of Cuba.

In October 2023, a post by Father José Rafael Grau Adán circulated on social media and WhatsApp groups, confirming the departure of at least four priests.

“Everyone must already know that 4 of our youngest priests have left the diocese. We are left with three octogenarians, some in their seventies. The religious, 4, and an extensive diocese, and the Bishop who will have to be a magician,” he wrote.

Although the supportive post accessed by Cubanos por el Mundo was mainly an SOS to keep a 1989 Toyota car operational for his pastoral services, Grau hinted at those absences.

Michel Sabido, one of the internet users who responded on Facebook, hoped the octogenarian priest would manage to find the parts for his fifty-year-old vehicle.

“… however, there is something that worries me even more, and that is the priestly exodus happening in a diocese where during chrism masses we almost finished singing PEOPLE OF KINGS, and the procession of priests never ended climbing the presbytery. What is happening to the Diocese?”

Sabido pointed out that Father Grau might have counted wrong since it wasn’t just four priests who had left the Camagüey priesthood of the past, naming each one of them.

The list includes Alien Cruz, Andy Vidal, Yosbel Puentes, Rolando Montes de Oca, Bladimir Navarro, and Fernando Gálvez.

Fernando Gálvez moved from Lugareño, in the Camagüey municipality of Minas, to New Jersey, USA, after pressures from his Archbishop, Wilfredo Pino Estévez.

He revealed this in an interview with Cuban writer Osvaldo Gallardo González, an activist for Religious Freedom in Cuba.

“They didn’t let me be the priest that Jesus Christ asked me to be for that town. Let’s be a priest for another town, with pain and sadness,” he lamented.

His reprimands began after posts on social media against the tyrant Miguel Díaz-Canel and the incidents led by the youth of the San Isidro Movement, according to the dialogue “Gallardo en su Isla,” from the independent media Cuba Trendings.

He also recounted that some women from Lugareño requested masses in memory of the dictator Fidel Castro, which he refused to do; instead, he rang the bells to celebrate, not the death of that person, but “the liberation of a people.”

Independent journalist Ileana Hernández, on June 22, 2021, expressed solidarity with Father Gálvez.

“If we don’t see another post from Father Fernando Gálvez about the problems of his parishioners, it’s because the Archbishopric doesn’t respond to #God but to a tyrannical regime. Silencing a messenger of God to avoid discomforting the tyrant is an aberration,” she asserted.

The historian from Agramonte, Joaquin Estrada Montalván, mentioned several priests from the province who were reprimanded for not aligning with the “resounding silence” of the Bishops.

This prominently includes the name of Alberto Reyes Pías, who was forbidden from publishing his column “Chronicles of the Northwest” (and more recently from ringing the bells in protest of power outages). Now it was Gálvez’s turn, wrote Estrada.

“Cuban bishops find it increasingly difficult to establish ‘discipline’ in communication to their local clergy on matters not strictly related to doctrine, theology, and morals. The ‘Cuban world’ has changed, and that includes priests,” he asserted.

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