Vatican praises Cuba for freeing political prisoners

February 26th, 2008 - 3:35 pm ICT by admin  

Havana, Feb 26 (IANS) The Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has said the freeing of political prisoners by Cuban authorities is a “positive gesture,” Spain’s EFE news agency reported Tuesday. Bertone, who met Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque Monday during his weeklong visit to the communist state, said that the church has “not exactly asked for an amnesty”.

The visit of the Vatican’s second most important official comes decades after Pope John Paul II undertook his historic visit to the island state.

“Good gestures such as those made in the time of John Paul II, like those made this month with the freeing of some prisoners, are positive gestures that will help reconciliation,” Bertone said at a press conference after the meeting.

Cuban authorities released seven prisoners in mid-February, four of them from the “Group of 75″ dissidents jailed in Spring 2003.

The cardinal said that Pope Benedict XVI is asking for “gestures of reconciliation among all the parties, all the forces of action here in Cuba”.

He said the church has asked to “attend spiritually to prisoners of all kinds”, and said that this was “not a political problem, it’s a humanitarian problem, a problem of spiritual support”.

Bertone was scheduled to meet President Raul Castro in what will be the first official meeting of the new head of state with a high-ranking foreign representative.

The cardinal said he had come to Cuba “at a special time, extraordinary,” and he expressed confidence that “those chosen for the new Assembly and the Council of State will try to do good”.

Relations with the Cuban authorities “are excellent” and thanked them for “all the help” they have given him to travel around the island, Bertone said.

He said he had the chance “to discuss, face to face, different problems and to share various goals” with the nation’s leaders and that he had “never been able to speak so freely with Cuban authorities as on this third visit”.

The cardinal, who had previously been in Cuba in 2001 and 2005, before he was named to his current post, expressed his hope that relations will “continue maturing further as in these 10 years”.

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