NCC Celebrates Moves Toward US-Cuba Normalization

Washington, DC: Today the National Council of Churches rejoices in the steps taken by Presidents Obama and Castro to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba. In addition, the NCC celebrates the return of Alan Gross, imprisoned for five years in Cuba, to the United States, and the humanitarian release of three of the "Cuban 5."

"The news that Cuba and the United States are now ending a half-century of hostility is welcome indeed during this season of Advent,” said National Council of Churches General Secretary Jim Winkler. “I salute Presidents Obama and Castro, and express thanks to Pope Francis and all those who helped bring this moment to pass. I ask local churches in the United States to follow the example of churches across Cuba and ring their bells in thanks and celebration!"

NCC Chair Roy Medley also stated: “We thank God for this wonderful news of these significant steps toward normalization of relations between our two nations. The NCC has long advocated for this day and we know our partners at the Cuban Council of Churches are as jubilant at this moment as are we."

The National Council of Churches has a deep history of advocacy for normalization of U.S.- Cuba relations on the basis of its long-standing friendship with the Cuban churches. Recent advocacy includes a delegation in December, 2011 in which members visited with Alan Gross just before meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro. Delegates were able to report on Gross’s condition and call for his release on humanitarian grounds.

Many NCC member communions have maintained ties to fellow Christians in Cuba through these difficult years. Some have been active in advocacy efforts culminating in this day.

“This is a great day for the people and churches of Cuba,” said NCC Associate General Secretary Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos. “We have long affirmed that economic engagement is crucial to reform. Engagement, communication, travel, and commerce will transform Cuban society more effectively than will our years of sanctions and boycotts.”

The NCC has known of the situation of the churches through the years of the embargo, and the vibrant faith that has flourished despite the communist regime. The seminary in Matanzas has been a force in the region in theological scholarship. Also, the NCC witnessed a thawing of anti-religious rhetoric with the opening of the Greek Orthodox cathedral in 2004, to which a delegation was sent to accompany the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew when he traveled there to celebrate the establishment of the cathedral.. The NCC, along with Church World Service, has constantly worked with the Cuban Council of Churches for the humanitarian and spiritual well-being of the people of Cuba.

The NCC plans to send a delegation to the Assembly of the Cuban Council of Churches this April.

The National Council of Churches and the Cuban Council of Churches celebrate this day and asks Congress to move forward with full normalization between our two countries.

Previous statements and press articles include:

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact: Steven D. Martin: 202.412.4323 or [email protected]