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Good news: The world isn't going to end this year*

*According to a council of Afro-Cuban priests, anyway…

A GROUP OF top Afro-Cuban priests have struck a reassuring note in their annual New Year’s forecast – the world isn’t going to end in 2012.

The priests predicted a year of change and upheaval, possibly with more earthquakes and increased global warming, but said fears the world will end are wrong.

They were reacting to prophecies that that some have attributed to the Maya, whose calendar cycle ends on December 21, 2012. The priests say they see a spiritual end to old things, but not a physical end to the planet.

Believers around the world have furthered the Mayan theory, which stems from a stone tablet discovered in the 1960s at the archaeological site of Tortuguero in the Gulf of Mexico state of Tabasco that describes the return of a Mayan god on that date, similar to the story of Judgment Day.

But Cuba’s priests say that “what needs to die is not the world itself, but rather the ways in which the world has lived until now: confrontations, wars, misery and discrimination.”

Lazaro Cuesta, one of the island’s leading Santeria priests, or babalawo, said: “For us, an old world must end so that a new world is born …. It is not a physical end.”

Santeria, which mixes Catholicism with the traditional African Yoruba faith, is followed by many people in Cuba, where about a third of the 11.2 million population is of African descent.

The Afro-Cuban priests have a mixed track record themselves, despite keeping their predictions rather vague.

In January 2010, they forecast struggles for power, treachery and coups d’etat, and said the world would see the death of an inordinate number of political leaders. That would have been a better description of 2011, which saw the upheavals brought on by the Arab Spring, as well as the death of North Korean leader Kim Jung-Il.

The priests also declined to weigh in on major events for 2012, like the March 26-28 visit to Cuba of Pope Benedict XVI, or elections in the United States.

More: Doomsday is when, again?>

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