Religion in Cuba reflects the island’s diverse cultural elements. Cuba is traditionally a Catholic country. In some instances Catholicism is much modified and influenced through syncretism. A common syncretic belief is Santería, which originated in Cuba and spread to neighboring islands; it shows similarities to Brazilian Umbanda and has been receiving a degree of official support.
Santería developed out of the traditions of the Yoruba, one of the African peoples who were imported to Cuba during the 16th through 19th centuries to work on the sugar plantations. Santería blends elements of Christianity and West African beliefs and as such made it possible for the slaves to retain their traditional beliefs while appearing to practice Catholicism. Cuba’s patron saint, La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady Of Charity) is a syncretism with the Santería goddess Ochún. The important religious festival "La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre" is celebrated by Cubans annually on 8 September. Other religions practised are Palo Monte, and Abakuá, which have large parts of their liturgy in African languages.
After the revolution of 1959, Cuba became an officially atheistic state and restricted religious practice. From 1959 to 1961 eighty percent of the professional Catholic priests and Protestant ministers left Cuba for the United States. Relationships between the new government and congregations were tense, the new Cuban government was very limiting and suspicious of church operations, blaming them for collaboration with the CIA during the Bay of Pigs invasion and stockpiling arms provided for a "counter-revolution".
Since 1992, restrictions have been eased and direct challenges by state institutions to the right to been eased somewhat, though the church still faces restrictions of written and electronic communication, and can only accept donations from state-approved funding sources. The Roman Catholic Church is made up of the Cuban Catholic Bishops' Conference (COCC), led by Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Cardinal Archbishop of Havana. It has eleven dioceses, 56 orders of nuns and 24 orders of priests.
On January 1998, Pope John Paul II paid a historic visit to the island, invited by the Cuban government and Catholic Church.