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Speaking to Granma, Reverend John McCullough, director of the Church World Service and leading the U.S. delegation to Cuba, noted that the trip is being made in the spirit of solidarity. He also sent a message of condolence to the island’s people following the death of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, last November 25.McCullough, also a member of the United Methodist Church Clergy, described the process underway to reestablish relations between Cuba and the U.S. as a period of significant changes for both countries, where the church has an important contribution to make.

Meanwhile, Tony de la Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency in the U.S., visiting the country for the first time, highlighted the Cuban peoples’ resilience in the face of foreign oppression; an example, he noted, that the rest of the world can learn from. He also described relations between churches from both countries as very strong.

However, the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the U.S. on Cuba has limited the development of these ties, according to Edgar Avitia Legarda of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, which is why churches have spoken out against the blockade and its consequences for both peoples, he noted.

Regarding the role of religious institutions in supporting efforts to end the blockade, Legarda stated that work needs to be done to educate sectors of U.S. society about the Cuban people and the country’s reality, noting that the island’s population is educated, healthy, happy, solidary, proud of its identity and culture; is a people with faith, full of hope, a great future ahead of them, and an example for people the world over. He went on to note that an end to the blockade would allow for more exchanges and provide U.S. citizens with the opportunity to learn more about the Protestant church in Cuba.

During their visit, the delegation will hold meetings with authorities, the Cuban Council of Churches, and corresponding religious organizations, among other activities.