LIFESTYLE

Catholic Church in Cuba quietly expands its reach and influence
Expanding into areas once utterly dominated by the state, the Catholic Church is providing tens of thousands of people with food, education, business training and even access to libraries stocked with foreign best-sellers.
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In this Aug. 21, 2015 photo, persons helped by the San Egidio Church attend a prayer service in Havana, Cuba. After decades of conflict with CubaĆ¢s Communist-run government, the Roman Catholic Church has quietly established itself as practically the only independent institution with any widespread influence on the island. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

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A nun holding the hands of two parishioners controls access during the procession of Cuba's patron saint, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, on her feast day in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. A focus of intense popular devotion for Cuban Catholics, the beloved Virgin of Charity was declared the patron saint of Cuba in 1916 by Pope Benedict XV. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

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In this Aug. 24, 2015 photo, Bertha More, 54, sits with her husband Alberto Espinosa, 79, a restaurant worker who was paralyzed by a stroke seven years ago and later lost a leg to circulation problems, in Havana, Cuba. With Bertha's mother Aida Machin also living in the apartment, the family is unable to live on Espinosa's $8 monthly state pension. They rely on the nearby San Juan de Letran church for clothes, powdered milk, chicken, cooking oil even a few dollars cash each month to make ends meet. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

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In this Aug. 21, 2015 photo, persons helped by the San Egidio Church, eat snacks in the community center in Havana, Cuba. As vespers draw to a close at the St. Egidio Catholic community center, a dozen homeless men in threadbare pants and rumpled T-shirts shuffled into a side room where volunteers handed out cups of soda and soft yellow rolls spread with mayonnaise. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

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A poster decorates the back of a tricycle taxi, announcing Pope Francis' upcoming Mass in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. The Mass is scheduled for Sept. 20 in Revolution Square. Cuba's Catholic Church leaders maintain a fluid dialogue with the Cuban government and is willing to support the island in its transformation, according to Cardinal Ortega, who is preparing to welcome the pope to the island this month. Ortega spoke in an interview broadcast on Cuban TV on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

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Catholic faithful watch the procession of Cuba's patron saint, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, on her feast day in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. A focus of intense popular devotion for Cuban Catholics, the beloved Virgin of Charity was declared the patron saint of Cuba in 1916 by Pope Benedict XV. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

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In this Aug. 26, 2015 photo, Sandra Aldama takes a break while wrapping bars of home made soap in Havana, Cuba. The church is operating in ways unimaginable in the years when the state tried to control every aspect of life in Cuba, such as the entrepreneurial training programs that imparted skills from accounting to business development that helped the Aldama family business. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

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In this Aug. 28, 2015 photo, Aldama family friend Eyleen Perdomo, left, sells home made soap at a stall in the artisans market fair. Under economic reforms in recent years by President Raul Castro, hundreds of thousands of Cubans have launched small businesses or gone to work for them, and the church is increasingly playing a key role in supporting them. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

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In this Aug. 24, 2015 photo, aided by the San Juan de Letran church, Aida Machin, 86, holds a picture from her youth in the apartment of her daughter Bertha More in Havana, Cuba. The church priest found Bertha a part-time housekeeping job. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

Catholic Church in Cuba quietly expands its reach and influence

Expanding into areas once utterly dominated by the state, the Catholic Church is providing tens of thousands of people with food, education, business training and even access to libraries stocked with foreign best-sellers.

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