From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Cuban council plays important role, United Methodist says

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 13 Feb 2003 15:17:22 -0600

Feb. 13, 2003	News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212)870-38037New York

NOTE: A photograph of the Rev. Bruce Robbins is available at

By United Methodist News Service

The council of churches in Cuba serves as an important go-between in the
relationship between Christians and the government, according to a United
Methodist ecumenist.

The Rev. Bruce Robbins, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on
Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, said that even though the Cuban
government is much more open to religious practice these days, "the council
plays a critical role of mediation on behalf of the churches."

Robbins was one of a four-person delegation, sponsored by the U.S. National
Council of Churches, who met with Cuban counterparts during a Feb. 6-10
visit. Other members were his wife, Carol Braswell Robbins; the Rev. Robert
Edgar, a United Methodist pastor and the NCC's chief executive; and the Rev.
Oscar Bolioli, a Methodist from Uruguay and the NCC's long-time liaison to

The group visited church projects, such as clinics and schools; toured a
school of medicine established by the Cuban government; met with relatives of
five Cubans convicted of spying who want visitation rights at the U.S federal
prison; visited with church members from various denominations and had dinner
with the president of Cuba's national assembly.

They also met with the chief of the U.S. Interest Section and asked about the
reason for delays in granting visas for Cubans traveling to the United
States. Cuban Methodist Bishop Ricardo Pereira, for example, was not able to
get a visa in time to join a meeting of Methodist bishops from the United
States, Latin America and the Caribbean last November in Puerto Rico. Robbins
said they were told the slowdown was due to security concerns following the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Robbins had both positive and negative experiences during what was his first
trip to Cuba. The Caribbean nation is home to about 10,500 Methodists.

"I find the churches to be growing and vital in ways that were exciting to
me," he said. He added that he wished more Cuban Methodists could visit their
counterparts in the United States to give witness to their strength of spirit
and vitality of worship.

But Robbins deplored the suffering caused by longtime sanctions against Cuba
by the United States. "My personal impression is the sanctions are a
tragedy," he said. "The fact they've been imposed for so long shows they have
not been effective."

United Methodist News Service
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