VATICAN CITY – The Vatican consistently has criticized the U.S. embargo against Cuba and hopes the Obama administration will lift the restrictions, recognizing the fact that they cause untold suffering for the Cuban people, a Vatican official said.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, visited Cuba Nov. 4-8 and met with local bishops and Catholics involved in communications work, but also with government officials.
The embargo “undeniably has a negative influence on the life of the people,” Archbishop Celli told Vatican Radio Nov. 13.
Asked whether he expects U.S. President Barack Obama to change U.S. policy, Archbishop Celli said, “I hope this can occur because, undeniably, it is the population that suffers most.”
He said that while the Catholic Church in Cuba has few resources and extremely limited access to the media, its communications efforts are having an impact.
“I told them it was exactly like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes” in the Gospel where a huge crowd is fed miraculously, the archbishop said.
While economic resources are a problem, the government restrictions are the biggest obstacle to the church’s communication efforts, he said.
“After the visit of the Holy Father, John Paul II, in 1998, the authorities gave bishops permission to access local radio stations three times a year for 15 minutes each time. So the bishop – who has no right to have a Catholic radio station – can speak on the local radio only 45 minutes each year,” he said.
“I told the competent government authorities that it would be wonderful if the church were allowed to have normal access to the media,” he said.
“They said they would think about it,” Archbishop Celli added.
The archbishop said he explained to the authorities that the Gospel message, a message already accepted by the majority of Cubans, has a profoundly human aspect that promotes the good of individuals and the development of the community.
In addition, he said, he told them that Cuban Catholics “would appreciate the fact that their bishop had access to the radio and could deliver words of human and Christian inspiration.”