Roman Catholic Church in Cuba

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The Roman Catholic Church in Cuba is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church .


The history of Catholicism in Cuba began in the 16th century , with the period of Spanish colonization. For four centuries until the Cuban Revolution in 1959 , the Catholic Church played an important role in the life of the country: it was supported by the majority of the population. However, Catholicism was strongly associated with the white, Spanish-born population, and the vast majority of priests were Spanish. The Church showed significantly less interest in the conversion of the non-white population in Cuba than in other Latin American countries such as Mexico and Peru. During the War of Independence, the Catholic Church was closer to the Spanish colonial rulers than to the independence movement, many of which were led by anti-clerical Freemasons . Since the founding of the republic in 1902, the Cuban state pursued a policy of separation of state and church.

Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Vatican began in 1935 and were not interrupted even during the anti-religious campaigns of the communist government. In 1959, Catholics made up about 70% of the population in Cuba. There were about 700 priests. The majority of churchgoers belonged to the white middle and upper classes in the cities, while the rural population was baptized but had little contact with the church and its representatives.

After Fidel Castro came to power, the Cuban government adopted anti-religious measures, especially from 1960 onwards, which greatly reduced the social influence of the church. A large part of the clergy and monks, especially of foreign origin, left Cuba in the first years after the revolution. By 1979 the number of Catholics had decreased by about half. In the 1980s there was an improvement in relations between the Vatican and the communist government of Cuba. However, according to the 1988 data, there were only a little over 200 Catholic clergy left in Cuba from the previous 500. In 1986 a nationwide meeting of Cuban Catholics took place ( Encuentro Nacional Eclesial Cubano ), which had been preceded by a “reflection process” lasting several years in preparation ( Reflexión Eclesial Cubana ).

On November 19, 1996, Pope John Paul II received Fidel Castro in the Vatican . In January 1998 the same Pope made a pastoral trip to Cuba. About a million Cubans attended the papal mass on Revolution Square in Havana. Pope Benedict XVI went on a pastoral trip from March 23rd to March 26th in Mexico and then to March 28th in Cuba. The occasion of the trip was the 400th anniversary of the apparition of the Cuban patron saint, the Blessed Virgin of El Cobre . He visited Santiago de Cuba and Havana and was received by President Raúl Castro .


Catholicism is the most common belief among the island's residents. The number of Catholics comprised 40% of the population at the end of the 20th century, but for the majority of them church membership was merely formal in nature. According to Newsweek magazine, around 4.7 million out of 11 million Cubans are baptized, but only 150,000 attend Sunday mass. According to the website , the total number of Catholics in Cuba in 2004 was 6.3 million people.

The Catholic Church in Cuba is divided into three archdioceses : Archdiocese of San Cristóbal de la Habana, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba. There are eight suffragan dioceses. Archbishop of Havana has been Juan García Rodríguez since 2016 , whose seat is in the highest church in the country, the St. Christopher's Cathedral . The Archdiocese of Camagüey has been under the direction of Archbishop Wilfredo Pino Estévez since the end of 2016 . The Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba is Dionisio García Ibáñez , current chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Cuba.

The Church has several educational institutions, including the Havana Major Seminary. The church also owns some homes and hospitals, and there is charitable work among the poor.

The Holy See is represented by the Apostolic Nuncio . Since October 2019 this has been Archbishop Giampiero Gloder .

Statistics by diocese (2004 data):

archdiocese diocese Number of Catholics Number of clergy Number of parishes
San Cristobal de la Habana San Cristobal de la Habana 2,800,000 111 102
Matanzas 478,000 20th 37
Pinar del Rio 430,000 19th 25th
Camaguey Camaguey 544,000 27 14th
Ciego de Avila 186 900 8th 4th
Cienfuegos 293 600 23 22nd
Santa Clara 518 935 27 34
Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba 248,000 20th 13
Guantánamo-Baracoa 185 218 9 7th
Holguín 435,000 37 28
Santísimo Salvador de Bayamo y Manzanillo 222,000 15th 9

See also


  • Theodor Herr : Church in Cuba. Christianity and Marxism at the turning point? . EOS, St. Ottilien 1989, ISBN 3-88096-749-0 .
  • Margaret E. Crahan: Catholicism in Cuba in: Cuban Studies 19, 1989, pages 3–24, ISBN 0-8229-3626-7 (English)
  • John M. Kirk: Toward an Understanding of the Church-State Rapprochement in Revolutionary Cuba in: Cuban Studies 19, 1989, pages 25–42, ISBN 0-8229-3626-7 (English)
  • Jorge I. Domínguez: International and National Aspects of the Catholic Church in Cuba in: Cuban Studies 19, 1989, pages 43–60, ISBN 0-8229-3626-7 (English)
  • Ignacio Uría: Iglesia y Revolución en Cuba , Madrid: Ediciones Encuentro 2011, ISBN 8499200885 (Spanish)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Samuel Farber: Cuba since the revolution of 1959: A critical assessment. Haymarket, Chicago 2011, p. 233 (English)
  2. Baker, Christopher P. Cuba Handbook. Chico, California: Moon Publications, Inc. (1997), pg. 103.
  3. ( page no longer available , search in web archives: Catholicism in different countries of the world )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  4. Nance Profiles web site (orig. Source: OPERATION WORLD, 1979)
  5. a b Vatican / Mexico / Cuba: First details of the papal trip in: Radio Vatican from January 2, 2012
  6. About 4.7 million of all 11 million Cubans are baptized, but only about 150,000 attend Sunday mass. Quoted from: The Battle for Cuba's Soul. Newsweek (Jan. 19, 1998), pg. 42.
  7. a b Entry on statistics of the Catholic Church in Cuba (status 2004) on ; Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  8. ^ Statistics of the Catholic Church in Cuba