New pictures show the Castro regime in Cuba is relaxing its stance on processions by allowing one to take place for the first time in nearly 60 years.
A statue of the country’s patron saint is being carried from Madruga in the east of the island to the capital Havana with festivities carrying on until December commemorating the 400th anniversary of its discovery by local fishermen, who found it floating in Cuba’s South Eastern Bay of Nipe.
The saint is worshipped by both Catholic and Afro-Cuban religions on the island, as the mother of Christ and as Ochun, the Afro-Cuban Yoruba goddess of love, femininity, and gold. The Virgin of Charity of Cobre was declared Cuba’s patron saint by Pope Benedict XV in 1916.
Since the visit of Pope John Paul II to the island in 1999, relations between the Church and the State have improved considerably and certain concessions have been granted by the Communist government.
Processions are now permitted in select cities to celebrate important Catholic dates, though they are usually conducted under close supervision by state security agents to monitor those attending and prevent dissenters from taking advantage of religious events to forward their own political agendas.
Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, the Archbishop of Havana, led the procession in Madruga, which was followed by a public Mass ceremony.
Cardinal Ortega Alamino said that on a recent trip to the Vatican, he had invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit Cuba. “He said he wants to visit us,” said Ortega Alamino.