Vatican official seeks more access to Cuban media

AP News
Posted: Nov 07, 2009 6:07 AM

A senior Vatican official said Friday he has asked Cuba's government to allow the Roman Catholic Church more access to mass media, saying Cubans are a religious people and should be given broadcast access to their pastors.

Currently, there are no Catholic radio stations or television stations in Cuba, a communist country in which the government controls all forms of communication.

"Our wish is for the Cuban church to have a more normal access to mass communication media," Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the chairman of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said during a visit to Havana.

"I believe the Cuban people are Christian and Catholic in the majority and I believe they would like to see and hear on the radio and on television their pastors."

The prelate, who arrived Wednesday night on a four-day working visit, described his meetings with government authorities as cordial.

On Friday morning he met with the director of Cuba's Institute of Radio and Television and with a deputy communications minister. Celli told reporters he had not met President Raul Castro.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI named Celli, 68, chairman of the Communications Council.

His arrival in Cuba coincided with the presentation of the new papal nuncio on the island, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, who earlier represented the Vatican in the African nations of Angola and Sao Tome and Principe.

Relations between the Catholic Church and the Cuban government have improved considerably since Pope John Paul II toured the island in 1998.

Although John Paul's influence was considered key to the collapse of communism in his native Poland, where Catholicism was strong and organized, the church has had much less say in Cuba than in other parts of Latin America.