Dissidents ‘occupy’ church to press for meeting with pope

Cuba's dissident William Cepera speaks during an interview outside the Virgin of Charity of Cobre Catholic church. AP photo

One “Occupy” demonstration has nothing to do with big corporations or the One Percent.

In Cuba, dissidents are camping out in a church in Havana to draw publicity for their wish to meet with Pope Benedict XVI when he visits later in March. The dissidents want to talk to the pope about human rights violations in Cuba.

Some other dissidents and a church spokesman denounced the move, which was apparently meant to be part of coordinated protests at churches across the island that were later abandoned.

The Church of Charity of Cobre in teeming Central Havana was semi-shuttered Wednesday and only pilgrims visiting an image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba’s patron, were permitted inside. There was no sign of police, and activity appeared normal on surrounding streets.

The dissidents were in an area that is off-limits to worshippers, said dissident William Cepera. He said he spoke with them through a window that was later closed.

“They entered the church last night and stayed. They will not budge from there,” he said.

Cepera added that he and a colleague from their small opposition group, the Nov. 30 Democratic Party, tried to join the group but were not allowed in.

“We would like to talk with the pope and tell him that the government of Fidel and Raul (Castro) has released only some prisoners, but other political prisoners remain,” he said.

Church spokesman Orlando Marquez said the protest was disrespectful to the pope, as well as to ordinary Catholics hoping to visit the church to pray. [More]

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