(Photo: Havana’s Catholic cathedral, June 14, 2010/Desmond Boylan)
The Roman Catholic Church will open on Wednesday its first new seminary in Cuba in more than half a century in a further sign of its improving relations with the island’s communist-led government.
The seminary replaces a similar school for future priests that was expropriated by Cuba’s communist authorities in 1966 and transformed first into a military barracks, then a police academy.
Catholic officials said Cuban President Raul Castro was expected to attend the inauguration — reflecting the more cordial relations between the Church and the government. Castro turned to the Church this year to serve as an internal interlocutor as he faced growing international pressure over political prisoners and human rights.
Cuban Church leader Cardinal Jaime Ortega negotiated with him the ongoing release of more than 50 political prisoners and, according to Western diplomats, opened an unofficial line of communication between Cuba and the United States, which do not have full formal diplomatic relations.