HAVANA (AP) — Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church says the former archbishop of Havana who helped organize the first papal visit to communist Cuba has died. Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino was 83.
Ortega also was the intermediary who helped open a dialogue between Havana and the U.S. that led the two countries to resume relations in 2014, after presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama secretly turned to Pope Francis for help.
In November 1994, Pope John Paul II named Ortega the first cardinal in Cuba in more than three decades — and the second in the island’s history.
In 1992, the government dropped its constitutional references to atheism, and a gradual thaw in church-state relations began, culminating with the papal visit in 1998, and government acceptance of some outdoor religious events.