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U.S., Cuban Church Leaders
Seek 'Normalized Relations'

BY JOSEF KUHN                                                                                                         ©2011 Religion News Service

Church leaders from ecumenical councils in the U.S. and Cuba wrapped up a five-day meeting in Havana on December 2 with a call for "normalized relations" between the two countries.
"We declare the following shared conviction: that the half century of animosity between our countries must end," said a joint statement issued by the National Council of Churches and the Council of Churches of Cuba.
The U.S. delegation of Protestant, Episcopal and Orthodox leaders discussed humanitarian issues with leaders of the ecumenical movement in Cuba, strengthening ties that were formed when Cuban church representatives took part in the NCC's 2010 General Assembly.
The delegates identified the half-century-old U.S. embargo against Cuba as "the major obstacle to the resolution of differences, to economic interaction, and to fuller engagement of our peoples and churches."
"For over five decades, our policy of trying to economically and diplomatically isolate Cuba has not achieved its goal of changing the regime to our liking. Instead, it has economically and diplomatically isolated the U.S.," said the Rev. Wes Granberg-Michaelson, the former general secretary of the Reformed Church in America.
The church leaders thanked the Obama administration for lifting some restrictions on travel to Cuba last January, but called for the "speedy and complete fulfillment" of the president's public intention "to review and revise long-standing U.S. policy toward Cuba."
Other humanitarian concerns at the meeting included the imprisonment in the U.S. of five Cuban intelligence officers known as "the Cuban Five," and the incarceration in Cuba of American citizen Alan Gross.

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