Cuban Government Implements Further Restrictions on Holy Week Processions

Cuban Government Implements Further Restrictions on Holy Week Processions

Havana : The administration led by President Miguel Díaz-Canel in Cuba has banned several Holy Week processions across various cities in the country, including the El Vedado area of Havana and Bayamo, which recently witnessed significant protests.

Last week, ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, detailed the prohibition of processions in the Diocese of the Most Holy Savior in the Bayamo-Manzanillo area of Granma province due to concerns by the regime about potential new protests. This ban has now extended to Havana, as confirmed by a Catholic priest.

According to estimates, more than 50% of Cubans are Christians, which is why Easter (or Holy Week) in Cuba is very important. Cubans usually flock to churches across the country to celebrate Easter. 

Father Lester Zayas, who serves as the pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Havana's El Vedado business district, shared on Facebook on March 25 that the government had informed him the previous day that the Holy Burial procession would not be permitted. He expressed his belief that this decision is a form of punishment, possibly due to discomfort or unease caused by his sermons, which he insists are not political but rather based on Gospel teachings. He views the prohibition as a violation of religious freedom, emphasizing that the procession request was made on behalf of the community, not himself.

In addition to Zayas’ announcement, sources within the Catholic Church cited by the Cuban media outlet 14ymedio have confirmed the suspension of outdoor processions in at least two other parishes in Villa Clara province in central Cuba.

Father Wilfredo Leiter, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara, also shared on social media that authorities prevented him from holding the Holy Burial procession on Good Friday. He explained that the decision to carry a large crucifix during the Palm Sunday procession was made because permission for Good Friday was denied, illustrating the challenges faced by religious communities in practicing their faith publicly.

Osvaldo Gallardo, a writer and activist for religious freedom who lived in Cuba for over 40 years, believes that the government's fear of processions stems from concerns about potential unrest.

The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) reported on March 27 that there were at least 936 incidents of religious freedom violations in Cuba in 2023. These included arbitrary arrests and harassment of families to deter them from attending Mass on Sundays, as well as restrictions on the religious practices of members of the Ladies in White, a citizen opposition movement comprised of relatives of Cuban prisoners.

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