SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba -- In this Caribbean nation of 11.3 million, one the greatest challenges to Catholic evangelization comes from Cubans who practice traditional African religions.
The fusion of diverse spiritual currents was occurring even before the Catholic church began expanding throughout the world. When colonizers brought Christianity to the New World, it was expected that other religious systems would adhere to the mother church.
In recent decades, however, the church's vision on this matter has been adjusted. The new approach has been inculturation of local populations. It is a process of welcoming traditional popular religious expressions and focusing on a gradual transition toward full communion via evangelization.
In Cuba, this syncretism of mostly animist African religions mixed with mainstream Catholicism is popular, said Jesuit Fr. Juan Rovira, who considers himself an "avid student" of popular devotion.
"The only real contact we have with them is when they come to church," said Rovira, pastor of Holy Family Parish is Santiago de Cuba.