Admiral of Morality: In Cuba, 100 years of Protestant worshp

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In Cuba, 100 years of Protestant worshp

HAVANA --A top executive of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) helped Cubans celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the capital's first Protestant house of worship, giving a sermon in which he urged all Christians to do more to eliminate global inequality.

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the Presbyterian stated clerk, spoke in both English and Spanish to hundreds of followers and diplomats at the Dec. 10 ceremony in central Havana. Delegations from Florida and Washington D.C. were also present.

"A better world is possible," said the U.S. clergyman. He said Christians must work toward creating a planet where everyone has a dignified life and enough to eat and drink.

Kirkpatrick first came to Cuba 20 years ago. He spoke of the history of the church, which was inaugurated in 1906 and hosted the founding of the Cuban Council of Churches in 1941, the membership organization for Protestant groups in the country.

"This church has been witness to very difficult, very complex times," he said.

Churches on the island nation have struggled under the government's efforts to control religious expression.

Cuba is home to some 20,000 Protestants, according to Rev. Hector Mendez, who leads the Havana church. Protestants are a minority on the island, where the Roman Catholic Church and followers of the syncretic Afro-Cuban Santeria religion dominate.

Mendez said Kirkpatrick's participation in Sunday's ceremony symbolized the brotherhood between the people of the United States and Cuba, despite tense relations between the two governments. He said he is against a series of U.S. regulations which squeeze the Cuban economy and limit religious contact between U.S. citizens and Cubans.

"We must set an example of love, of reconciliation," he said.

The Havana church offers home Bible study, music courses and assistance to the elderly.

By The AP in Havana.

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