Church rises in Cuba

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Parishioners take photos backdropped by a stained glass window at the newly consecrated Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Catholic church in Sandino, Cuba on Saturday. AP

SANDINO, Cuba — The first new Roman Catholic church to be completed in Cuba since the country’s 1959 socialist revolution was inaugurated with the aid of a Florida congregation Saturday, in a ceremony that observers called a hopeful sign amid international tensions.

Tensions between Cuba and the US have risen in recent weeks as the Trump administration has threatened new sanctions on Cuba and its ally Venezuela.

The Parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the western town of Sandino is one of three Catholic churches authorized by Cuba as part of a warming between the Vatican and the island’s Communist government.

It is the first to be finished, thanks in large part to financial aid from the members of St. Lawrence Church in Tampa, Florida. Tensions between Cuba and the US have risen in recent weeks as the Trump administration has threatened new sanctions on Cuba and its ally Venezuela.

Faithful arrive for the consecration Mass of the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Catholic church or Sacred Heart, in Sandino, Cuba, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Of the three Catholic churches the Cuban government has authorized, it’s the first one in 60 years to be completed. It was finished with the help of Tampa’s St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Florida. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

The Cuban state and Catholic church clashed in the first decades after the revolution, when many priests worked against the new Communist-ruled state and were expelled by the government, which also took over many churches.

President Fidel Castro began easing restrictions on religion in the 1990s. Popes John Paul II, Benedict and Francis all visited the island since then.

A new church in Havana is also being used for worship but remains structurally incomplete. A third sanctuary in Santiago has yet to begin significant construction.

AP

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