The Cuban dissident group Ladies in White told Efe that it requested the mediation of Havana Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Ortega so that Pope Benedict XVI would grant them an audience in The Vatican.

The request was transmitted to the chancellor of the Havana archbishopric, Ramon Suarez Polcari, during a meeting held last Friday, the group's spokeswoman, Berta Soler, told Efe on Sunday.

Last Wednesday, a Ladies in White delegation also met in Havana with the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Cuba, or COCC, Dionisio Garcia, who is also archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Soler said.

"We delivered (to Msgr. Polcari) a letter in which we are asking for the cardinal to intercede with the Holy Father so that he might give a delegation of the Ladies in White an audience in The Vatican," Soler said.

"Polcari was not receptive at that time because he said that if they didn't allow us to participate here (in Cuba) in the pope's Masses, how could we go to The Vatican," Soler said.

At the end of March, Benedict XVI visited the communist island and met with President Raul Castro and with Fidel Castro, but his agenda did not include meetings with members of dissident groups.

During that visit, according to opposition groups, members of the dissident movement were prevented from attending the Masses celebrated by the pontiff.

With regard to her meeting with the president of the COCC, Soler said that he was "very receptive."

They delivered to him the rules and guiding principles of the Ladies in White and an updated list of 64 political prisoners - which includes the 14 people released on parole - who "are those for whom we are lobbying," Soler said.

The Cuban Catholic hierarchy and the government in May 2010 opened an unprecedented dialogue that resulted in a process whereby dozens of political prisoners were released.

Since then, the Church has acquired a renewed role as interlocutor with the Cuban authorities and has opened up space for the exchange of ideas and dialogue on issues like the Cuban diaspora and reconciliation between Cubans outside and within the country, among other questions. EFE