|Vatican||CUBAN GOVERNMENT USING ELIAN CASE TO REPRESS CHURCH: FIDES AGENCY|
The Cuban government has used the case of Elian Gonzalez to mask a new campaign of repression against the Catholic Church, according to the Vatican missionary news agency, Fides.
The government has portrayed the church as a malicious ally of those trying to keep the 6-year-old Elian in the United States, the Vatican's missionary news agency Fides said in a report released on Tuesday.
The report, citing informed church sources in Havana, said the Cuban regime has quietly withdrawn permission for some church-sponsored events and increased its surveillance of others.
It said that as Cuban outrage has grown over the Elian case, the government has been trying to direct it more and more against the church.
One commercial on state TV took particular aim at US Dominican Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, president of Barry University and the nun who hosted a January meeting between Elian and his grandmothers in Miami Beach. Sister O'Laughlin later said she was in favor of Elian remaining in the United States. The commercial depicted the nun as slowly being transformed into a computer image of a demon, Fides said.
It said Havana police have announced heavy fines for anyone publicly defending the nun's role in the case.
Fides believes the regime of Cuban President Fidel Castro fears that in the wake of the pope's visit, Cuban dissidents are having more frequent contact with the church, whose social doctrine is seen as protecting human rights. In late March, for example, 20 dissidents demonstrated with a day of fasting and prayer at the country's most famous Marian sanctuary, with the support of the local pastor.