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Canadian bishops not commenting on Cuban WYD defections

Canadian bishops are not planning to comment yet on the apparent defection of 23 Cubans who were part of a delegation of 200 Cuban pilgrims at World Youth Day in Toronto.

Deacon William Kokesch, communications director for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said on Tuesday that he had spoken with federal government officials earlier and was told that none of the pilgrims had officially sought asylum in Canada.

He also indicated that the church would not be giving the refugees any special treatment.

The 23 young Cubans slipped away from their delegation at World Youth Day's closing Mass July 28 and were whisked away to safe houses in the Cuban-Canadian community, where they reportedly were hiding while applying for refugee status.

Meanwhile Bishop Carlos Baladrón of Guantánamo in Cuba said there is no religious persecution on the island and questioned the motives of at least 23 young pilgrims in his delegation who defected in Canada over the weekend.

Baladrón hinted material reasons may have lured the group. He said migration ``is unstoppable and young people migrate from one place to another; sometimes, of course, for material reasons . . . ''

CNS/Miami Herald

32 Aug 2002