Cuba is a North American country which has its population from African and Spanish origin. Majority follows the Roman Catholic Church. The religion is a smooth blend of Catholicism of Rome and religions from Africa. During most part of the regime of President Castro, Cuba remained an atheist state.
In 1962, Castro's government seized and pulled the shutters down of almost 400 catholic schools with the charge that they were spreading dangerous beliefs amongst the people. In 1991, under the communist rule, this ban was lifted. In 1992, amendment of the constitution was made and the state of Cuba was declared secular.
The church is still the biggest independent institution in the country. However, its operations continue under considerable pressure. Restrictions against the church by the government includes refusal of independent printing press, complete access to media, training sufficient numbers of priests, restricting foreign priests from working in Cuba, and restrictions on establishing institutions useful to society like universities, hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and schools.
In 1996, President Castro invited Pope to visit his country after both parties reached an agreement regarding issues related to religious activities. Cuba then witnessed 4 open air masses, media coverage and provision of public transport for people to reach these masses.
Christmas was declared a closed holiday for the first time in 1997 and continues to be a national holiday ever since. Pope John Paul II addressed enhancing the reach and scope of the Catholic Church and freedom for its activities. He sought amnesty for prisoners. In response, the government released approximately 300 prisoners of which 70 were held under political charges. The Pope’s visit was a turning point and brought not only hope but respect for the human rights of the people as well. After the departure of the pope, these developments did not appear to continue. Visas for foreign priests to enter this country were resumed during the Pope’s visit, but this was soon restricted severely on his departure.
Many other religious groups, like the evangelical Christians, also benefited from the Pope’s visit in the form of relaxation of official restrictions on the activities of the religious organizations. Their numbers have seen a steady growth. Emigration restrictions hit the small sized Jewish community. But they still hold their services in Havana and have followers in Camaguey, Santiago and other parts of the country. The assistance and intervention by Jews abroad like arranging for visits by their rabbis or their rabbinical students has kept the Hebrew faith alive in Cuba.
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Global Security: Religion In Cuba