My Cuban friend, whom I call Tio, asked me the other day what I thought of Raul Castro stating he might once again begin to go to church. My reaction, not ironically, was Dios Mio!
In the U.S., a statement like that makes one fear the church will catch on fire, but there aren’t enough standing official churches in Cuba to make that a worry.
On May 10, 2015 Pope Francis and Raul Castro met for a sit down. At the time Raul said he was so impressed with the pope that “I will go back to praying and go back to the church, and I’m not joking.”
“I am from the Cuban Communist Party, that doesn’t allow believers, but now we are allowing it, it’s an important step,”
Religion in Cuba is complicated. Declaring itself an atheist state in 1962, that edict was not lifted until 1992. Only then did official Cuban textbooks remove the statement that “Religion is the opium of the people”.
Religious persecution was the norm, not the exception.
While Catholicism is now recognized, there is still no recognition, and therefore, continued persecution, of so called outlying religions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.
According to the US Commission on Religous Freedom’s 2015 report: “Serious religious freedom violations continue in Cuba, despite improvements for government-approved religious groups.”
The Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) are still regularly persecuted during their processionals to church and some are still subjects of Actos de Repudio.
Will this all stop if Raul actually goes to church? I doubt it, he was a member of the original revolutionaries, it was they that removed religion from the Cubans. What I do believe will happen is that worship will be accepted as long as it continues to follow the party line.