Leaders of the dissident group Ladies in White spent nearly four hours Thursday with Cuba's Catholic primate, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, asking him to mediate with the communist government to stop its repression of them.

The meeting, held at the Havana Archdiocese, came at a time marked by criticism of the cardinel by certain Cuban exile groups and the internal opposition.

At the close of the meeting, the spokesperson for the dissident group, Berta Soler, told reporters that Ortega was "very receptive" to their request and listened to everything they had to say.

Soler said she and her three colleagues has as their objective informing the cardinal that the Ladies in White are "being "taken to jail" for going to their regular Sunday Masses and that "the repression (against them) has intensified.

Their aim was "for the cardinal to listen to us, and to be able to transmit (what we said) to (Cuban President) Raul Castro so that at least, although the violence against the Ladies in White might not cease, it could diminish because we're peaceful women," Soler said.

"We have confidence, faith in him, given that we have much to thank him for," emphasized Soler, recalling that in 2010 Ortega contributed to engineering the release of political prisoners and the cessation of a series of attacks by goverment supporters against the Ladies in White in Havana.

Ortega at that time headed an unprecedented dialogue between the Catholic Church and the communist government that bore fruit in the form of a process of gradually releasing dozens of political prisoners.

Since then, the Church has taken on a renewed role as an interlocutor with the authorities and has opened spaces within Cuban society for exchange and dialogue on issues such as reconciliation among Cubans outside and within the country.

In recent weeks, Ortega has been the target of criticism by sectors who accuse him of aligning himself with the government.

The Ladies in White, who are asking for the release of all political prisoners in Cuba, emphasized that freedom for those people is not in the cardinal's hands but rather those of the government.

"The bridge there was between the Catholic Church and the government ... was valid," said Soler, adding that the members of the group will continue "knocking on the doors" of the Church and appealing to it for mediation with the goverment. EFE