Havana, Cuba, Mar 21, 2012 / 12:06 pm (CNA).- Despite local media
reports, Bishop Emilio Aranguren of Holguin, Cuba has denied that any
violence was used against a group of protesters who occupied the
Cathedral of St. Isidore last week.
On March 13, some 17 dissidents protested in the cathedral, while 20
others occupied the Church of St. Jerome in the city of Las Tunas, which
is also in the Diocese of Holguin.
The state-run media in Cuba alleged that Bishop Aranguren used violence
to force them out of the cathedral and that he even slapped one
protestor as he was attempting to make a call on his cell phone.
"There were some words exchanged because the young man who was in the
first pew in front of me took out his cell phone, and I told him to put
it away because cell phones are not allowed in the church, either for
phone calls or for taking pictures," the bishop said.
He said that during the exchange, the man "told me I was not a pastor,
and I raised my voice and energetically made a gesture to convey that he
was offending me."
"Various members of the group told him to be quiet. I did not slap him
at any time, nor did I make any gesture that caused him to drop his cell
phone," the bishop said.
Within the last week, other protestors had occupied Minor Basilica of
Our Lady of Charity in Havana and the Cathedral of Pinar del Rio in an
apparent effort to demand an audience with Pope Benedict during his
March 25-29 visit to the country.
Spokesman for the Archdiocese of Havana, Orlando Marquez, called the
incidents an "organized strategy by various groups in different regions
of the country" aimed at "creating difficult situations" as the Pope's
Although local Church authorities have a history of support and empathy
for other groups of political dissidents in the country, Marquez called
the recent protests "illegitimate" and "irresponsible."