The Episcopal Church welcomed the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Cuba during the faith's convention, a few days before President Obama announced America would open an embassy in Havana.

By a voice vote on Saturday, the church's House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops to welcome "recent diplomatic initiatives aimed at restoring relations and expanding commerce and movement of people between the United States and Cuba." The resolution at the church's 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City also calls for the easing of any other sanctions that might block its work with the Episcopal Church of Cuba.

On Wednesday, Obama announced the United States would open a "new chapter" in relations with the island-nation 90 miles south of Key West. President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke ties with the communist regime of Fidel Castro in January 1961, and said he'd hoped those relations would be restored quickly. Obama said that restoration took longer than expected.

"We don't have to be imprisoned by the past," Obama said from the White House Rose Garden, according to the Associated Press. "Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward."

There are approximately 10,000 Episcopalians in Cuba, part of a diocese established in 1901. After the Cuban revolution in 1959, the local Episcopal branch lost contact with its American parent, eventually forming a "Metropolitan Council" with the Anglican Church of Canada. In March, the Cuban Episcopal synod voted to return to communion with the Episcopal Church of the United States, encouraged by diplomatic developments, the Anglican Online news service reported.

"I am completely in favor" of the move, said the Rev. Dr. Luis León, rector of St. John's Church in Washington, D.C., where Obama has attended services.

The Episcopal Church in Cuba "welcomed us and wanted to reconnect" with their American brethren, he said, referring to a visit he and a group of 20 clerics made to the island 15 years ago.

Another group of 11 Episcopal bishops traveled to Cuba in April to learn more about the church in the island nation and support appointed Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio.

Of the larger U.S. embargo, the Rev. León said, "some laws should have an expiration date," because the embargo "did nothing but offer the Castro regime an excuse" for failings in society, even when it was the Cuban system that was at fault.

The Rev. León was one of 14,000 children sent to the U.S. by parents in Cuba who feared their indoctrination by the communist regime.


Twitter: @Mark_Kellner