Father Miguel Angelo Jimenez’ congregation is small and mostly elderly and his church, Our Lady of Carmen in central Havana, needs repairs to a leaking roof for which there is no money. As he sits behind a worn desk that looks like it dates back to the church’s opening in 1926, he is under no illusions about the state of the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba.
“It was in decline (before Cuba’s 1959 revolution) and it continues to decline in many things. The Church really needs to renew itself,” he said.
That, in essence, is why Pope Benedict will visit the communist island on March 26-28 after a three-day stop in Mexico. The once-powerful Catholic Church in Cuba is hoping the German pontiff will awaken what Cardinal Jaime Ortega called last week a “a sleeping faith” and also help build on its budding relationship with the Cuban government.
Badly weakened in the years after the revolution, the Church wants to regain some of its lost glory, both in terms of bringing more people into the fold and expanding its role in shaping Cuban society.