Roman Catholic Archdiocese Cancels Cruise From Miami to Cuba for Papal Visit Because of Opposition From Cuban Exiles and Business Leaders

Archbishop John C. Favalora said he wants to lead a pilgrimage to Cuba by other means.

``It is now evident to me that the cruise ship has become a source of serious tension in our community,'' Favalora said in a statement.

The decision followed a meeting Thursday between Favalora and a group of Hispanic Catholics, including bankers, executives, lawyers and a publisher.

Many prominent Miami Cuban-Americans opposed the trip because they said it would serve as a tacit endorsement of the government of President Fidel Castro.

``If this ship comes and goes, the Cuban church will be left empty-handed,'' lawyer Rafael Penalver said after the meeting. ``We pledged to the archbishop to work in a meaningful and more permanent way to assist the Cuban Church.''

The archdiocese paid Norwegian Cruise Line in advance for the trip, and tickets sold for $599 to $1,399. Would-be participants were asked to show they were going to Cuba only for religious purposes.

The communist-controlled island is under a trade embargo imposed by the U.S. government, but it is being partially lifted to allow people to visit there during Pope John Paul II's tour in late January.

To limit the amount of money spent on Castro-controlled enterprises, cruise tour organizers had planned to have the pilgrims eat and sleep on board.