Cuba's Conference of Catholic Bishops prayed for relief from the dramatic situation suffered by people on the island in its 2023 Christmas Message, in which it mentioned lonely and helpless elderly people, prisoners, and those who suffer most intensely the country’s lack of medicine, food and hope.
"The Cuban people often feel that they're journeying through a dark night. We're wrapping up a very difficult year, because the situation as regards food, medicine and services, in general, is dramatic. The growing emigration of children, young people, entire families, workers and professionals adds to the suffering born of material deprivation the pain of separation, and leaves many older adults lonely and helpless," said top representatives of the Catholic Church in a text published by the magazine Vida Cristiana (Christian Life).
"The salaries of most are not enough for adequate nourishment, not to mention other needs that human beings have to live with dignity. Prisoners continue to be missed, both in their homes and in the Christian community. In the hearts and faces of many of our brothers there is confusion, sadness and hopelessness. The economy has not yet thrived as expected, and the possibility of prosperity, and legitimate opinions and pluralistic thoughts, is not sufficiently recognized and valued," they complained.
The conference prayed for "God to grant joy, peace, tranquility and hope" to the Cuban people, because "without these feelings in hearts, human beings lose enthusiasm for life, the ability to undertake efforts and take the actions to see them through."
"We have to create, together, with responsibility and commitment, real possibilities for the Cuban people, who are cheerful, creative and enterprising, to realize all their potential. And we can find in the Homeland the areas and freedom to carry out personal, family and community life projects," it added.
The Catholic bishops called on people to "celebrate Christmas as families and in the Christian community" and to do so "at a deep level," "despite the limitations."
"May it be a good time to share at homes, to visit the sick and those who are alone (...) May every child receive a gift on Three Kings' Day. May we be able to smile at each other, to enjoy company, and have time to listen to each other, and reconcile," they expressed.
In August of 2023 the Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed regret that "Cuba is weathering one of the most difficult moments in its history" when presenting the guide of the Catholic Church for the 2023-2030 period. At that time it complained that "inflation, shortages and emigration are generating oppression, hopelessness and apathy on the island."
Members of the Cuban Catholic Church often criticize the government's abuses, and have also sometimes been victims of repression. Last July, Cuban clergyman Alberto Reyes, a priest with the Archdiocese of Camagüey, condemned the fact that members of the Church who speak out regarding the injustices that occur in the country are called and threatened by the regime.
Reyes explained that "the reason for the deterioration of religious freedom in Cuba" is the "totalitarian government" that rules the country and that, in seeking absolute control, it also needs "to have control over the Church: what is allowed, what is not allowed, tailored to its own interests."
In this regard, he pointed out that while Masses can be celebrated at churches, in Cuba the Church's access to the media and the educational system "is nil," and "negligible" in the case of the health system. For public processions and Eucharist, permission is subject to "the conditions that they dictate."
"We have been threatened with prosecution and imprisonment if we continue to publish our opinions in the media about the situation in the country, whenever it does not coincide with the Government's official version," said the priest.