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Archbishop Mamberti's official visit to Cuba

· At the invitation of the Episcopal Conference and the Minister for Foreign Affairs ·

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, recently made an official Visit to Cuba – at the invitation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs – to inaugurate the 10th Catholic Social Week and to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the Holy See.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti arrived at José Martí International Airport, Havana, in the afternoon of 15 June. He was then received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and by Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana.

Also present were Abelardo Moreno Fernández, Vice-Chancellor;  Caridad Diego Bello, director of the Office of Attention for Religious Affairs (oaar); Carlos Samper, Vice-Director, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Emilio Aranguren Echeverría of Holguín, Orlando Márquez, in charge of communications for the Archdiocese of Havana, and Francisco Roberto Florentino Gaupera of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Wednesday morning, 16 June, began with the laying of a wreath at the moment to José Martí in Plaza de la Revolución [Revolution Square].

Present among others were Vice-Minister Moreno Fernández, the Director for Europe of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ernesto Sentí Darias, Ambassador Eduardo Delgado Bermúdez, Ambassador to the Holy See, and the Apostolic Nuncio.

A meeting was then held at the headquarters of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs with Bruno Rodríguez, Chancellor. This meeting, in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, was followed by a press conference for numerous journalists and a reception for the diplomatic corps.

In the evening Archbishop Mamberti gave the inaugural lecture for the 10th Social Week on the concept of the secularity of the State in accordance with Christian doctrine and culture. The day ended with a concert offered by the Government, in the evocative setting of the Monastery of St Jerónimo in honour of the 75th anniversary of uninterrupted diplomatic relations.

On the morning of 17 June, Archbishop Mamberti took part in the presentation, in the context of the 10th Social Week, by Fr Jorge Cela, sj, of the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate. In the afternoon Archbishop Mamberti was able to admire the praiseworthy collection of paintings and sculptures at the National Fine Arts Museum.

Later, in the cathedral thronged with the faithful, in the presence of senior civil authorities and a large number of diplomats, Archbishop Mamberti presided at a solemn Holy Mass for the liturgical celebration, even though it was a few days early, of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul. In his homily, the Secretary for Relations with States recalled the importance and centrality of the Pope, a symbol of unity and universality in the Church's life, and the specificity of the ministry of the Successor of Peter.

The Eucharist was followed by the inauguration of a plaque commemorating Fr Felix Varela.

The next day began with a moving visit to the “Solidarity with Panama” School for children affected by motor difficulties. An official lunch followed, offered to Archbishop Mamberti by Minister Rodríguez. In the evening, in the gardens of the Apostolic Nunciature, a reception was organized in honour of the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI's Pontificate.

Present among the numerous important figures were Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs, María Esther Reux González, Minister for Justice, and Homero Acosta, Secretary of the State Council.

On this occasion Archbishop Mamberti stressed that the current relations between the Church and the State are evolving positively. Beforehand the Prelate had spoken with several Cuban Bishops who gave him a brief outline of the situation of the local Church, together with their projects for the future and the challenges they must face every day.

Archbishop Mamberti spent the mornings of 19 and 20 June visiting two important Cuban institutions: the “Escuela Latinoamerica de Medicina”  (elam) [Latin American School of Medicine], that trains doctors called to work in various countries of the world, and the monumental complex of Belén that houses a centre offering social assistance to the elderly and needy of the capital.

A long and cordial encounter with President Raúl Castro Ruz in the afternoon of 20 June, crowned Archbishop Mamberti's intense and positive visit. That same evening he left the Island on his way back to the Vatican.

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