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Supporters of Cuban dissidents arrested

HAVANA (Agencies): While all may have seemed calm as pope Francis sat peacefully with the Cuban revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, those who represent the people who suffered under his rule were being prevented by Cuban police from attending public events, even though some of them had been invited by Vatican diplomats to attend a papal function.

Members of the well-known Women in White group, made up mostly of the wives, sisters and mothers of political prisoners who have been holding weekly vigils for years, were arrested by Cuban police shortly prior Pope Francis’ scheduled appearance at Havana cathedral for evening prayer on September 20.

Many of them had been taken into custody briefly prior to the outdoor papal Mass earlier in the day. Those picked up in both incidents were released shortly after the events.

“The authorities told me I would not be permitted to attend any event related to Pope Francis,” Miriam Leiva told the Associated Press.

About 50 people were held and the headquarters of Women in White was surrounded by police. At least three people were forcibly removed from the site of the papal Mass.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that the papal party had sought to contact some members of the political opposition by telephone, but were unsuccessful.

He did not explain that failure—which could have occurred because the people involved were in police custody when the pope’s aides were dialing their numbers.

AsiaNews reported one exiled Cuban as saying, “I would love to see the pope embrace the victims, even before going to greet their torturer.”

 

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