Reliant on Venezuelan oil, Cubans worry how Hugo Chavez's health will affect the country. Patrick Oppmann reports.
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) – On a recent trip to Cuba, I was surprised to see so many classic cars. I knew Havana was famous for its 1950s Fords, Chevrolets, and Oldsmobiles, but I had no idea how prevalent “cacharros” were in small towns and big cities alike.
When I asked a friend, the proud owner of a 1953 Ford, how Cubans kept all these cars running, he told me that they make things up as they go along. But this spirit of improvisation isn’t limited to adapting blender parts for your Mercedes-Benz engine. It’s evident in Cuban music, the Cuban economy and the Cuban-born religion of Santeria.
From Mariano Castillo and David Ariosto, CNN
Havana, Cuba (CNN) - Pope Benedict XVI spoke in general terms, saying "Cuba and the world need change," but steered clear of political statements during a Mass he celebrated in Havana's Revolution Plaza on Wednesday.
The pope said that such change can come only if "each one is prepared to ask for the truth and if they decide to take the path of love, sowing reconciliation and brotherhood."
Earlier in his trip, the pontiff had prayed for "those deprived of freedom" and told reporters that Cuba's Marxist political system "no longer corresponds to reality."
Many in Cuba and around the world listened closely to the pope's homily at the enormous open-air Mass to see if the pontiff would expand or be more forceful in his apparent criticisms.
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.
By David Ariosto, CNN
Havana, Cuba (CNN) – Not long after Fidel Castro and his bearded band of guerilla fighters rolled into Havana in 1959, conditions appeared so dire for the island’s Catholic clergymen that their cardinal fled to Argentina’s Embassy seeking political asylum.
Manuel Arteaga died in 1963 from illness while still in Cuba, and for more than three decades the island would officially remain an atheist state. Castro’s communist revolution endeavored to rid the country of its religious influence, confiscating church property and expelling or oppressing religious workers.
A young priest named Jaime Ortega, who would one day become the nation’s cardinal, was among them. In 1966, the Cuban government sent him to a military work camp for several months.
Today, the 75-year-old cardinal heads the island’s Roman Catholic Church, thrust into the spotlight perhaps more than ever with Pope Benedict XVI's visit this week to Cuba.
(CNN)–Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba following the Vatican-brokered release of political prisoners. CNN's Patrick Oppmann reports.
Havana, Cuba (CNN) - Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Cuba this week, forging inroads with the Castro government and ultimately helping to bring about the release of a jailed American contractor. At least, that's how Judy Gross would like to see this week's papal visit play out.
"I hope it's very likely," she told CNN's Erin Burnett on Friday.
Her husband, Alan Gross, is in prison outside the Cuban capital on subversion charges. He was arrested on December 3, 2009, for distributing what officials described as sensitive communications equipment to the island's small Jewish community.
Havana, Cuba (CNN) - Pope Benedict heads to Cuba on Monday on the second leg of a tour he's using not just to spread the faith but to address political issues.
Benedict will arrive at the island nation from Mexico, where he denounced drug wars and violence Friday in a visit scheduled just months ahead of its presidential elections. He also blasted Cuba's Marxist political system, saying it "no longer corresponds to reality."
The pope's comments, delivered to reporters aboard a flight from Rome to Mexico, sparked speculation over what he will say once he addresses the Cuban people directly.
Santiago, Cuba (CNN) - Facing the stage where Pope Benedict XVI will deliver his first Mass in Cuba during his visit here this week is a giant neon billboard of a young and victorious Fidel Castro brandishing a rifle.
It would appear to be a poor omen for the pope’s visit, if not for the message printed beside the Cuban leader: “Rebels yesterday, hospitable today, always heroic.” It’s the slogan for Santiago de Cuba, the first stop on the pope’s three-day trip to the island nation.
The freshly erected sign offers insight into the changing, often hard to read, relationship between the Cuban government and the Catholic Church.
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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.