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Vatican Picks New Havana Archbishop: Less Focus On Politics, More On Poverty?

New Havana Archbishop-designate Juan de la Caridad Garcia of Camaguey

As of today, Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church has a new leader – a changing of the clerical guard that matters more on the communist island than it did in years past.

The departing Havana Archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, is 79 and has wanted to retire for a few years now. But the Vatican needed to retain his diplomatic skills. Ortega helped broker the recent normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S.

He has also led the revival of Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church after decades of suppression by the Cuban Revolution. Today the Church is perhaps Cuba’s only other viable institution aside from the communist state. And it’s a major promoter of the island’s growing private sector.

But more conservative Cuban exiles in Miami distrust Ortega – and call him a puppet of the Castro regime.

For all those reasons, Ortega’s resignation is big news both there and here. So is his replacement. The Vatican has announced that the new Havana archbishop is Juan de la CaridadGarcía. He’s currently the archbishop in Camagüey – which is far from Havana in deep central Cuba.

Cuba watchers say that indicates Pope Francis may want a new direction for the Cuban church: Less emphasis on U.S.-Cuba politics and more on ministering to poorer Cubans in the provinces.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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