home
RSS
March 28th, 2012
11:32 AM ET

Seminary is Cuba’s first Catholic building since revolution

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN

Havana, Cuba (CNN) – Driving out of Havana on the four-lane and mostly empty Carretera Central, it’s easy to miss the future of the Catholic Church in Cuba.

But on the left hand side of the highway is the San Carlos and Ambrosio Seminary, looking more like one of the many sprawling Spanish resort hotels that dot the Caribbean island.

“We are shaping Cuba’s priests of tomorrow here,” said the Rev. Jose Miguel Gonzalez, the seminary’s rector and a Spanish priest, who has worked in Cuba for 12 years.

The seminary is home to 54 Cubans studying for the priesthood, who say Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the island nation this week gives a big boost to their cause.

With overgrown grass and Spartan accommodations, the seminary hardly seems remarkable. But it’s the first building that Cuba’s government has allowed the Catholic Church to build since the 1959 revolution.

After Fidel Castro took power, the church found itself in a power struggle with the revolutionaries, who accused the clergy of siding with the deposed dictatorship. Hundreds of priests went into exile, and Catholic schools were shuttered across the island, including the Jesuit school where Castro once studied.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Like much of the Cuban capital, Havana’s seminary fell into disrepair during economic hard times. Most Cubans hoping to become priests had to leave the country to complete the eight years of study.

But Gonzalez rejects the idea that the church, although weakened, lost its way.

“The Cuban church does not need to be reconstructed, because it’s already been built,” he said. “The Cuban church needs to keep doing what it has done, moving forward in the community.”

Those advances, however, took decades. Not until Pope John Paul II’s historic visit in 1998 did the church win approval to build the new seminary.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

When the seminary opened in 2010, President Raul Castro attended the inauguration ceremony. The first stone used in the building, blessed by John Paul II, now stands at the seminary entrance.

Gonzalez said the church has made slow progress, but progress all the same.

“In the last few years, the old tensions have lessened,” he said. ”There is great ability to talk, maintain a dialogue. They are more receptive to our initiatives, like the creation and operation of this seminary.”

Financial aid arrives from around the world to support the seminary. Still, Gonzalez said, the Cuban church is hampered by the limited means to spread its message and raise funds.

“A great challenge is to prepare these young men, these future priests, to do something they can’t do now, which is one day be able to evangelize,” he said.

The challenges will be substantial. Cuba has the lowest population of Catholic priests in Latin America. Even though some 60% of Cubans identify themselves as Catholics, the church estimates that only 10% regularly attends services.

But seminarians who spoke to CNN said they were not intimidated by the hardships that their vocation will bring.

“The priests here carry out reconciliation,” said Yasmany Ibaldo Perez Marañon. “Not only the uniting of people, but of the uniting of people with God.”

Marcelo Diaz said he is joining the priesthood for the "important mission of trying to save Cuba."

Alien Cruz Fernandez said he believes the pope's visit this week is a sign.

“That he comes to Cuba, a country that’s not that important, a small country, it’s a sign that God sees us (and) that the (Catholic) Church is also watching Cuba, too,” he said.

Sister Eva Maria Ackerman is one of four nuns from Texas who are helping at the seminary. She said she never expected to serve her church overseas, much less in one of the last bastions of communism.

“My family and friends were like Cuba, Missouri? And I said, ‘No, Cuba the island, the country,’ ” Ackerman said. “In that way, I could see the hand of God in it.

“My faith has been strengthened by the strength of their faith. I think the faith has been there, but I think in some ways they’ve been able to be more outward with it.”

The pope is not scheduled to visit the seminary during his three-day visit. But his trip to Cuba is expected to reap benefits for the rebuilding of the Catholic Church.

Fernandez said Benedict’s visit will “renew our faith, just as Pope John Paul II’s did.”

When asked what Cubans needed most though, rector Gonzalez didn’t hesitate. “Hope,” he said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Cuba

soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Trancend

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Trancend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ will result in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Currently.... your constructing your own path that suits your sin lifestyle.

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find a truth you can take with you in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life. You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf, the greatest minds knowledge fate or are eventually plagerzed, your good deeds are forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated, your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over .
    Trancend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Relise your a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent....

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth.

    Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment. You don't get what you want you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Down is up. Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.

    Your all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.

    April 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  2. AtheismIsCrap

    God Is Great!

    April 2, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Jesus

      Lying is a sin. There is no proof of your god, especially since Christians are rotting in jail because their prayers weren't answered and their children died.

      April 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer changes lives

    April 2, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Jesus

      Still spreading your lies. No it doesn't. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!

      April 2, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • just sayin

      yes it do.

      April 2, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  4. Prayer changes things

    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things .

    March 31, 2012 at 6:13 am |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things*

    March 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Jesus

      No it doesn't. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!

      March 30, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • just sayin

      Yes it do

      March 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  6. Knight of St. Joan

    Notice the most beautiful parts of Cuba are in a Catholic Seminary or Church. It's 2012 years since the birth of Christ... they tried to kill him on the cross at age 33... he's still with us. Communists/ Athiest and others have constantly tried to destroy Christianity without success, you see that here in Cuba. You cannot destroy something that is spiritual.
    Many of these posts have to do with YouTube... did you get your education from "The University of Youtube"? (no doubt it would be a Bachelor of Science, aka BS degree)
    And why do so many put their faith in George Carlin and Bill Maher? They are comedians, doesn't tell you something? They exist for the purpose of making fun of other things. They are not the fountain of truth and life. Both Carlin and Maher look like the living dead, both have/had drug issues and are disgusting people.

    March 30, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • just sayin

      Carlin is dead and if you review his work he really was not all that funny.

      March 30, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things
    Proven

    March 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Jesus

      No, it's not. Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.! .

      March 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  8. kr

    A lot of people here, especially atheists, have misconceptions about prayer. There are many types and ways of prayer. And prayer is said by many people not necessarily so God can create unexplainable miracles, but to help them to do the will of God, such as to be constantly loving, caring, and just whether in times of successes or failures, abundance or poverty, sickness or health, in war or peace.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    March 29, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • Jesus

      Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!

      March 29, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  10. TR6

    The pope knows he needs a BULLIT PROOF pope-mobile because he knows prayer is useless and god does not exist

    March 28, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  11. Andrew

    well, lots of comentaries... so religion is interesting for them all! let's think about it with her: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAru_YFvGvc&feature=g-vrec&context=G2be04e5RVAAAAAAAAAA

    March 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  12. Prayer changes things

    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    March 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Jesus

      ~~Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!*.. .

      March 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  13. Payers change things

    Payers change things. Prayer does nothing other than waste time.
    Proven.
    ~~~

    March 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  14. CNN

    PRAYER FROM MAKKAH

    March 28, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Truth from sane people

      March 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • just sayin

      A dead sometimes funny guy, how original.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  15. Prayer is Delusion

    Prayer is a joke

    March 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  16. GEORGEL

    March 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  17. Payers are a waste of time

    It's proven to be a waste of time!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  18. sergio malo

    Change must come to Cuba. You can not have a family of two brothers kidnapped a whole nation for 50 years on a faked revolution. It is not fair. Cuban people deseve better

    March 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Elmer Gantry and Lonesome Rhodes Live!

      How does one fake a revolution?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      We pray for our Cuban brothers and sisters that they will have freedom from their oppressors.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  19. Payers change things

    Payers change things. Prayer does nothing other than waste time.
    Proven.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • just sayin

      You cannot buy your way into a relationship with God.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Payers change things

      That's because god doesn't exist.

      Payers change things. Prayer does nothing other than waste time.
      Proven.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Jesus

      Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...
      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!*

      March 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • nope

      nope.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • LOL

      Nope is a dope!!

      March 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Patrick Erhahon

      If you know how to pray and what to pray for, then you will know that prayer changes things!

      March 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Really?

      "If you know how to pray and what to pray for, then you will know that prayer changes things!"

      No it doesn't.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 28, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Payers change things

      Payers change things. Prayer does nothing other than waste time.
      Proven.
      ~

      March 28, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • just sayin

      You could be the richest person on the face of the earth and give all your wealth to the poor and still be a lost soul on judgement day.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Payers change things

      That's Pascal's Wager, and you lose.

      Payers change things. Prayer does nothing other than waste time.
      Proven.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • KMB

      TRUE! Prayer to God is instrumental in change. No matter how much you bitter, cynical unbelievers would like to continue to deny this reality, you will not succeed. I am sorry that you are so hardened and cynical that you cannot believe anything not laid out for you on your TV.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Jesus

      Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...
      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!..

      March 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • nope

      nope,

      March 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • LOL

      Nope is a dope!

      March 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • just sayin

      Has anyone seen my pants?

      March 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm |

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.