by Viviane Hewitt in Rome A VATICAN-SANCTIONED delegation of European theoiogians spent three days in Cuba last week, debating Christianity and Marxism with representatives of the island's 31-year-old Communist regime led by former revolutionary Fidel Castro.
The unprecedented debate in Havana was organised by the Association of European Christian Socialists to reinforce dialogue between Castro's government and the Church in Cuba, comprising seven bishops and just 120 priests.
The talks were also intended as a paving of the way for Pope John Paul II's predicted visit to the Caribbean island next year.
The group of Italian. French and Portuguese theologians described the meeting as useful for the process of Catholic renewal in Cuba but warned that full religious liberty there might still be a long way off.
Fidel Castro has twice invited John Paul to Cuba and has already shown signs of greater tolerance of Church activity.
Last year the Cuban leader launched an appeal to foreign priests and missionaries to return to his country where, the Vatican estimates, a further 350 priests would be required to meet the people' rc-ernerging spiritual needs.
The recent talks, however, highlighted the Cuban Episcopal Conference's continuing distrust of the Castro regime.
Bishops at first announced they would boycott the meeting, which they feared would be interpreted as Church compromise towards the ruling Marxists.