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CHURCH and HUMAN RIGHTS: Cuban activist, founder of Varela Project, killed in car crash

Lay Catholic leaders in Havana were among those mourning the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, a champion of civil and human rights, coordinator of Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement and founder of the Varela Project, who was killed in a car accident July 22.

Catholic News Service
Havana, Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Catholic News Service

The laity magazine Espacio Laical posted a note seeking prayers for Payá and his family and friends, and calling him "an honest man, an exemplary family man, a Catholic of integrity, a good Cuban and a politician who invariably acted according to his conscience."

Payá, 60, and another Cuban activist, Harold Cepero, were killed when the car in which they were driving struck a tree, about 14 miles outside the city of Bayamo in Granma province. Two other passengers in the rental car, a Spaniard and a Swede, were injured and are reported to be recovering in a Bayamo hospital.

Payá was a Catholic who was public about his faith and its influence on his work, even during the years when Cuba was an officially atheist nation and being active in a church carried social and employment ramifications.

The Varela Project advocates peacefully for democratic reforms in Cuba. Though the Catholic Church has no official involvement with the Varela Project because of its political activities, it was named for Father Felix Varela, a 19th century Cuban priest who was involved in the country's first independence movement. Father Varela was declared venerable in April.

Source: Catholic News Service, CNS:

Photo: Oswaldo Payá and Pope John Paul II (Wikipedia)


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