San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary, the first Roman Catholic seminary to open in Cuba in more than 50 years, was inaugurated outside of Havana yesterday. The ceremony was attended by President Raúl Castro, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski as well as several high-level church officials from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Italy and the United States. The seminary is located 10 miles southeast of the capital, and replaces a former seminary that was taken over by the Cuban government in 1966 and transformed into a military barracks.
The event and its impressive attendance by the international Roman Catholic community symbolize improving relations between Cuba’s communist regime and the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II blessed the first stone of the seminary during a historic visit to Cuba in 1998, and construction began eight years later. Wednesday’s inauguration comes several weeks after Cardinal Jaime Ortega of the Archdiocese of Havana led negotiations between the Catholic Church and the Cuban government for the release of 52 political dissidents.
The greatest strides between both the government and the Church have occurred since Raúl Castro came into power. This cooperative approach is in stark contrast to Cuba’s policies during the late 1970s and early 1980s when the regime essentially abolished religion in the Caribbean nation in light of the Marxist-Leninist ideology that religion stands in the way of revolution.