Jack Wickes is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Jack Wickes is licensed under CC BY 2.0

About 70 percent of Cubans are devout Catholics.

Tampa, Florida’s St. Lawrence Catholic Church has raised $95,000 in donations to construct a new church in Sandino, Cuba. Father Cirilo Castro, the pastor of this new church located on Cuba's western tip visited the island to check up on the construction progress. The name of the church is Parish of Divine Mercy of Sandino.

The single-story church will have a seating capacity of 200 and will be the first church in the town. The building’s area comprises 800 square feet. The town, with a population of 40,000, is located in the Pinar del Rio along the western coast of Cuba. The town economy is dominated by citrus, fishing, and coffee.

The plan to build a church in Cuba was mainly driven by Father Ramon Hernandez. He said that the church will be architecturally completed by the end of June. The roof is the only element of the building which is yet unfinished. Interior furniture like pews and an altar along with a number of other features will be added in the near future. The first mass will reverberate inside the church within the first half of 2018. This church will enable Cubans to worship in a consecrated building. Until now, devout Catholics used to pray inside their own homes.

One thing is for sure: Cuba awaits change. Santiago de Cuba's Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez, one of Cuba's important bishops told Vatican Radio that a few changes happen quicker than the others. He continued on to say that many Cubans have realized that people can reside in much better material and spiritual conditions. He added that the list of changes includes social, economic and cultural changes as well. The last is rather rapid among the Cuban youth. The latter is familiar with digital communication and have a different thinking process. Political change can be expected. The administrative and legal structure must also change. The changes are there for all to see: the Cuban Communist Party in 1991 removed atheism as a membership requirement. In 1992, Cuba was declared a secular country. Pope John Paul II made a historic visit in 1998 and Christmas was designated a national holiday the same year.

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, about 70 percent of the Cuban population can be counted as Roman Catholic.

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