Archbishop Wenski asks for prayers for Cuban dissidents

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski has asked that masses at the Our Lady of Charity shrine say special prayers this weekend for Cuban dissident Sonia Garro and two others jailed without trial since shortly before a papal mass in Havana in 2012.

Wenski was responding to a request by the Center for a Free Cuba, a pro-democracy group based in Washington and headed by Frank Calzon, to several Roman Catholic Church officials to offer prayers for the dissidents on Easter Sunday.

“Please know that this family will be in my prayers -- and that I have asked that this prayer of petition be included in the prayers offered at La Ermita de la Caridad this weekend” in Coconut Grove, Wenski wrote in an email.

Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz and activist Eugenio Hernández were arrested at the couple’s home in a poor Havana neighborhood March 18 2012 as they made plans to attend Pope Benedict XVI’s mass, dissidents say.

Prosecutors accused them of trying to kill policemen when they resisted a raid on the home. Garro has claimed that there was no resistance and alleged that police used tear gas and shot her in the leg with a rubber bullet during the raid.

No trial has been held but prosecutors have asked for a 14-year sentence for Muñoz, 11 for Hernandez and 10 for Garro – among the longest prison terms for dissidents since 75 opposition activists were sentenced to up to 28 years in the spring of 2003.

Police detained more than 1,000 dissidents during the pope’s Cuba visit April 26-28 to keep them away from the papal masses, and blocked their cell phones in an apparent attempt to keep news of the crackdown from filtering out to the news media.

Calzon also made public a response from Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

“We share in your heartfelt concern for these brave individuals, and indeed for all the (Ladies in White) and their supporters in Cuba,” Pates said, promising to “take such further steps as may be advisable to pursue a just resolution of this case.”

Pates added that he was convinced “the best way to assist these heroic individuals is by supporting the efforts of the Cuban Bishops' Conference in its work of fostering human rights and democracy in that country."

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