Cuba Opens First Church Since Communist Rule Began in 1959

Cuban First Secretary of Communist Party Raul Castro Ruz
Cuban First Secretary of Communist Party Raul Castro Ruz (Yamil Lage/Pool via Reuters)

Cuba is opening its doors to the first Catholic church on the island since the 1959 Communist Revolution ushered in an era of atheism.

The Parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of three churches approved by Cuba following improved relations between the Vatican and the communist government, was inaugurated Saturday in the far-western town of Sandino.

The new church opened in large part to the financial aid from members of St. Lawrence Church in Tampa, Florida, after Father Ramon Hernandez, a Cuban-born priest at St. Lawrence, reached out in 2010 to Father Cirilo Castro, then a priest in Sandino, where people worshipped in their homes.

"Donations came from as far as San Francisco, New York, Wisconsin," Luisa Long, coordinator of Hispanic ministries for the Tampa church, told the Tampa Bay Times. "This was handled through St. Lawrence but made possible by many."

For the Cuban town of 40,000, the church gives them hope, amid international tensions.

"[Everyone] is excited about the new church," Hernandez said. "Not just the Catholics but the whole town."

The communist-ruled state cracked down on the Catholic church in the first decades after the revolution, expelling priests and taking over churches. It wasn't until the 1990s that Fidel Castro started easing restrictions on religion, and both Popes John Paul II and Francis have visited since then.

The opening of the new church in Sandino was particularly significant because the town is home to families relocated from Cuba's Escambray region, where residents fought the communist government in the first years after the revolution.

"This is a historic event for the church," Juan Hidalberto Hernandez, a Sandino church member, said. "Many families and their descendants left their saints behind and didn't have a church to pray in."

The Tampa congregation donated about $95,000 for the new building, which holds some 200 worshippers and was built on land granted by the state.

A new church in Havana is also being used for worship but remains structurally incomplete. A third sanctuary in Santiago has yet to begin significant construction.

Tensions between Cuba and the U.S. have heightened in recent weeks as the Trump administration has threatened new sanctions on Cuba and its ally, Venezuela.

This article originally appeared on Fox News. Reprinted with permission.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

To contact us or to submit an article, click here.

Get Charisma's best content delivered right to your inbox! Never miss a big news story again. Click here to subscribe to the Charisma News newsletter.

Five ways to deepen your relationship with God, increase your faith and save money!

  • Deepen Your Relationship with God with a FREE eCourse: Click Here to view all of our free e-Courses. Favorite topics include Fear, Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, Supernatural, and How to Hear God.
  • Super Discounts and Close-Out Specials: Click Here to view all our bundles and close-out specials and save up to 86%! Prayer, Holy Spirit, Anointing, the Supernatural and more.
  • God Wants to Anoint Women Now: Rise up and enter the anointing of Deborah, Anna, Esther, Ruth and Hannah. You were called to go higher. Click Here to learn more.
  • Change Your Atmosphere and Circumstances Through Prayer! John Eckhardt's prayer bundle gives you six powerful books to help you pray and change any situation. Click Here.
  • HUGE Bible Sale!: Click Here to save up to 50% off a great selection of Bibles. Plus, get a free gift with each order!

Subscription Special: Subscribe to Charisma for Only $24.97 and get a free gift. With your subscription, you'll receive Born For Significance by best-selling author Bill Johnson. View Offer

Attention Pastors and Leaders: Leadership training and development are crucial for success. Enroll in a FREE 1-hour leadership mini-course by Dr. Mark Rutland. View Details

Charisma News - Informing believers with news from a Spirit-filled perspective