Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Vitral’s closure

Vitral, a lay Catholic journal of ideas published by the Center for Civic and Religious Education at the Diocese of Pinar del Rio, ceased publication this month after releasing its 78th issue. The journal was an independent, serious, and critical voice, and obviously a rare one in Cuba’s media landscape. It is one of many educational and charitable projects that have been the pride of many Catholics in Cuba and have brought benefit to Cubans of all faiths.

Vitral’s closure had been rumored since December. A terse and barely credible editor’s note in the final issue explained that lack of resources was the cause.

The more likely explanation involves change in the leadership of the church in Cuba, and possibly in its relationship with the Cuban government. There is a new director of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Havana, and new bishops have been installed in Pinar del Rio, Holguin, Bayamo, and Santiago. One wonders if Vitral’s closure was a unilateral gesture by the new bishop in Pinar del Rio, Jorge Enrique Serpa, or if it was part of a larger church-state bargain that is being developed there or at the national level.

Juan de Dios Hernandez, an auxiliary bishop in Havana, seemed to imply the latter when he told reporters April 6 that the Cuban state is “slowly coming to understand the role of the church among the people.” The church hopes, he said, that “to the degree possible,” the church’s life and its evangelical mission can be “more and more on the road to normalization.” He added: “I believe that is the state’s hope too.”

Time will tell. For now, the church cannot avoid the impression that it closed an important publication for no reason.

The recently retired bishop of Pinar del Rio, Jose Siro Gonzales, says in an interview that his successor assured him that Vitral’s closure is due to lack of paper, and publication will resume when that is resolved. “To say anything else would be to distort things,” he said.

No comments: