Over the last two decades, the Catholic Church has come to occupy a unique space within Cuban society and has developed a growing dialogue with the Cuban state. Actively interested in the ongoing economic reform process, the Archdiocese of Havana promotes debate regarding the role of the state and citizens in the economy and facilitates graduate training in business studies. The Church has also advocated for consideration of a wider national dialogue which includes diverse visions of Cuban society, and helped broker the release of over 50 political prisoners in 2010-11. Some praise the Church for serving as an interlocutor on sensitive issues while others criticize it for legitimizing the Castro regime.
On July 29, the Foreign Policy at Brookings Latin America Initiative hosted a panel to explore the role of the Catholic Church within Cuba, featuring remarks by Orlando Márquez Hidalgo, editor and director of Palabra Nueva, a monthly publication of the Archdiocese of Havana. Commentators included Tom Quigley, former foreign policy advisor on Latin America and the Caribbean to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Eusebio Mujal-Leon, associate professor and director of the Cuba XXI project at Georgetown University. Senior Fellow Ted Piccone, deputy director of Foreign Policy, moderated the discussion.