March 20, 1996
Jaime Cardinal Ortega y Alamino
President, Cuban Episcopal Conference
Calle Habana 152, Apartado 594
La Habana 10100 CUBA
I write to express once again the solidarity of the U. S. Catholic bishops with the Church and people of Cuba. This week the Administrative Board of our Bishops Conference met in Washington and we unanimously voted to express our ecclesial support to you and the bishops of Cuba for your prophetic and pastoral leadership in this time of challenge for the Church in Cuba.
We welcome your statement of March 12, A Call to Reconciliation and Peace. We will rely on its consistent call for dialogue and respect for human rights to guide our efforts on behalf of the Cuban people. In the spirit of this Lenten season, we join you in urging reconciliation among Cubans, between Cubans and Cuban-Americans, and between the peoples of Cuba and the United States. We shall be sharing your statement with officials of the U.S. government, the bishops of the United States, and others interested in Cuba.
With you, our bishops conference has condemned the shooting down of the two civilian aircraft belonging to Brothers to the Rescue, and we have lamented the tragic loss of life and the heightened tensions which resulted. We also deplored the denial of authorization for a meeting of Concilio Cubano, a movement which offered promise of some opening in Cuban society, the disruption of that meeting and the subsequent detentions. We are disturbed because the brutal attack on civilian aircraft, combined with the Cuban government crackdown on Concilio Cubano sets back hopes for necessary dialogue within Cuba and between Cuba and the United States.
Unfortunately, these recent sad events have set up obstacles along the road to a national dialogue among the Cuban people, and they have further impeded relations between the government of Cuba and the government of the United States. We have urged our own government to seek measures which distinguish clearly between the Cuban government, which is responsible for these actions, and the Cuban people who long for greater freedom, religious liberty and better relations between our two peoples.
For this reason, we join your conference in expressing our great disappointment that these developments have led to the enactment of the Helms-Burton law by the United States which has placed onerous burdens on the longsuffering people of Cuba. We continue to urge both governments to find ways to relax the embargo in response to progress on human rights in Cuba.
We welcome your call for moderation and prudence at a time of so much tension. With you, our brother bishops, we urge people in positions of responsibility both in the United States and in Cuba to avoid further provocative actions and to continue to find ways to re-open the path of dialogue to which the Cuban bishops have been so consistently committed. For our part, we commit our conference offices to finding ways to promote a renewed dialogue at many levels to promote human rights, religious liberty and democratic values.
I commend our common work of reconciliation to the care of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba. With admiration for your leadership of the Church in Cuba and prayerful wishes for a blessed Easter, I am
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Anthony M. Pilla
Bishop of Cleveland