Camagüey, Cuba, Jul 23, 2021 / 18:01 pm (CNA).
The Church is accompanying those protesting Cuba’s communist government, according to a priest of the Archdiocese of Camagüey.
“I will speak about the part of the Church that I know, the one that touches me closely in this effort to accompany the people in their legitimate claims. Above all, we are welcoming, where people can speak without fear, dream of the future, think and imagine the Cuba they want. We commit ourselves to everyone in these works and we try to guide them from Gospel criteria. So that the Cuba that is reborn is in accordance with God. A Cuba that promotes the fullness of the human being that Christ revealed to us,” Fr. Fernando Luis Gálvez, pastor of San José de Lugareño parish in Camagüey, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, July 22.
Fr. Gálvez, 33, said that the clergy in Camagüey tried to be “a father” to their parishioners amid the emonstrations that began July 11 across Cuba.
“With such a Church, the future can proceed in the ways of God, otherwise the future will most likely be alien to the Gospel. If we do not accompany this rebirth, we would be mortgaging the future of the Church and therefore the salvation of future generations,” Fr. Gálvez stressed.
Protesters cited concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some protesters were beaten, and at least 100 were arrested.
“Cuba is a country in a state of collapse … When we watch national television it looks like an average country. When someone lies about many things, nothing they say is credible anymore. It is a deplorable situation,” charged Fr. Gálvez. Every day he hears “laments and complaints,” he added.
“There’s nothing we can say is okay. There’s no food, no medicine, no efficient medical services, no transportation, and no properly functioning institutions. Nothing works and almost nothing that is needed and sought out can be found. I experience this in the towns I serve as pastor, and it’s practically the same throughout the nation,” he explained.
The protests drew a violent response from Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who ordered law enforcement to crack down on them.
Díaz-Canel denied July 14 that there was repression going on. However, videos posted on social media showed agents beating and arresting protesters.
“The image of those groups of ‘civilians,’ sent and protected by the communist government, armed with clubs and stones, scares me. It’s a terrifying image, totally reprehensible. So much manipulation scares me, so much intolerance of free expression, so much hatred,” the priest said.
In the context of the protests, Fr. Gálvez noted that he is seeing a Cuba that is “vigorous, with a desire for change, hopeful, with a fighting spirit,” despite the “pain and disappointment of the past and present.”
“The latest events and the government’s response have awakened many who still didn’t see things clearly, who doubted, who perhaps still believed in the benefits that were only proclaimed in words. The government’s violent response has been the clearest evidence of its identity. And the feeling that the people are experiencing, now in enforced silence, is: ‘no more.’ And this is the beginning of a path that sooner or later will bring change,” he continued.
The priest told ACI Prensa that in “the small towns he serves pastorally there were no demonstrations, but in some parts of the diocese there were, and I know and esteem a lot some of the detainees.”
“It is precisely because of this personal knowledge that I am absolutely convinced of the human quality of many of the protesters. They are just people who love Cuba very much. There are many of them whose love for God has led them to a commitment to those who suffer, a commitment to justice, to the truth,” Fr. Gálvez said.
In addition, he said that “there are still people who have gone missing … For them we continue praying, looking for them, making demands. Others are already in their homes awaiting trial under trumped up charges. This situation is sad and very uncertain,” he added.
Fr. Gálvez told ACI Prensa that he is a close friend of Fr. Cástor Álvarez Devesa, a priest who was beaten, detained during the demonstrations, and later released.
“It was 24 hours of great anguish. He wanted to know what had happened to him. Where did they take him? What are they doing to him? What will be the consequences? We were afraid for him, who had already been violently attacked during the demonstration,” he said.
According to Fr. Álvarez, “he wasn’t physically abused inside the police station. Although his arrest was already arbitrary in itself. Fr. Castor was faithfully fulfilling his priestly mission: to care for his children,” he continued.
Fr. Gálvez told ACI Prensa that “the government censors everything, including the Church.”
“I don’t want to talk more about this now, because it is very painful. I have marks on me and I still can’t discover the future consequences for my life and ministry. I ask you to pray for the freedom of the Church in Cuba. May we be faithful to our Christian conscience,” continued the priest.
Fr. Gálvez believes that “the clergy could be more committed to solving the real problem. The root of the problem.”
“It’s easier to give out medicine, food, etc. We are looking for fewer inconveniences. But all that’s over. I no longer have anything to give. All I have left is my voice. That I can give. And I will use it to demand justice,” he pledged.
The priest also said that this demand for justice is related to the right to decent work and, therefore, to a better life.
“So that they, by themselves, can buy their food and get their medicines and whatever needs they may have. In Cuba we all have basic needs right now. So this material charitable service isn’t enough. You have to go to the root of the problem. What are the causes of this precarious situation? There we would have to reflect and face the consequences for the good of all,” he said.
Fr. Gálvez stressed that the “unity of the Cuban Church is in Jesus Christ” and that “faith and morals unite us.”
“The rest is up for discussion. That’s diversity, not division. God speaks to each one and suggests fields of action according to the needs of the people entrusted to us. That is what we would have to discern at this dramatic moment,” he stressed.
Finally, the priest said that he always remembers the Cross of Christ in order to overcome the dark hours.
“The Cross, I always invite you to contemplate the Cross, which is not resignation. The Cross since that Good Friday is the greatest paradox in history. There, by reflecting within ourselves, we could find paths and facet them with supernatural forces,” he concluded.