Pope’s Visit to Cuba: Historic Visit at Vital Time

2003-01-15BY VICTOR GAETAN, REGISTER CORRESPONDENT http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/popes-visit-to-cuba-historic-visit-at-vital-time/

The leading Catholic democracy activist in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya, hopes to be present for the Pope’s visit. As the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement in the 1980s, he led a grassroots effort, the Varela Project, which collected approximately 25,000 signatures from Cubans requesting a referendum on basic liberties such as the rights to expression and association, free elections and free enterprise. Much of the movement’s leadership was jailed in 2003; Paya is under 24/7 surveillance by Cuban security operatives.

He confirmed that the communist government is aggressively trying to intimidate regime opponents. By telephone from Havana, he told the Register: “In a very nasty style, like the Cultural Revolution in China, police are using terror against families who cannot defend themselves, especially the Ladies [in White] and government dissidents. They are saying we are not allowed to go to the ceremony of the Pope.”

“But,” Paya continued, “the Pope is unity. The Pope is charity. This message is very important to us because God is our true liberation; and as we take risks for freedom, God is always reminding us that we have it, in us through him.”

Said Paya, “Everybody is doing his own best in the world, and the Catholics who don’t know each other — we are united; and the Pope is the sign of that unity.”

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