Cuba plans first new church since 1959

The Church in Cuba is to build its first new church since the revolution in 1959.

The new church will be in the centre of Sandino, the largest town in the western province of Pinar del Río, the Archdiocese of Havana has told Agenzia Fides. Local bishop, Dr Jorge Enrique Serpa Pérez says the church, to be dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will accommodate about 200 seated worshippers.

Authorization for the construction of the new church was given on September 9, 2014, but it is only now that requests to build new churches have become disentangled from governmental red tape. Several other new churches are planned.

Following the 1959 revolution, religious people, especially Catholics, were regarded with suspicion by the Castro regime, with the Church regarded as too close to the ousted Batista regime. Church property was seized and thousands of priests were jailed or forced to leave the country.

Relations between Church and state improved after Pope St John Paul II’s 1998 visit, since when Christmas and Good Friday have become national holidays, public processions have been permitted, and messages from Cardinal Jaime Ortega have been broadcast on state television. 

The construction of new churches has been a key request of the Cuban Church, as it seeks to renew its mission of evangelisation in the traditionally Catholic country where the syncretic religion Santeria, blending African Yoruba mythology with Catholicism, is on the rise. The Archdiocese of Havana believes 60% of Cuba’s more than 11 million inhabitants are Catholic.