Arriving in Cuba, Pope issues clear call for change
Pope Benedict XVI offered a prescription for change in Cuba as he arrived on Monday afternoon, March 26, to begin a 3-day visit there.
The Pope—who had said last week that Marxism has failed in Cuba—said that he was convinced “that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future.” He said the future of the island nation should be shaped by “the fine patrimony of spiritual and moral values which fashioned the nation’s true identity, and he mentioned Cuban heroes like José Marti and Felix Varela. Conspicuously missing from his list of great Cuban leaders was Fidel Castro.
As he arrived in Cuba, Pope Benedict recalled the historic visit by Pope John Paul II in 1998, saying that it “left an indelible mark on the soul of all Cubans.” That papal visit was “like a gentle breath of fresh air which gave new strength to the Church in Cuba,” he said.
Gently alluding to the contentious issue of Church-state relations in Cuba, the Pope said that his predecessor’s visit ushered in “a new phase in the relationship between Church and State,” and welcomed a “new spirit of cooperation and trust,” while noting that there were many areas still in need of improvement. In greeting the Pontiff, Raul Castro had asserted that the government welcomes the activity of the Catholic Church; the Pope’s words seemed design to convey that the Church would continue to press for greater freedom.
Pope Benedict also made it clear that he would speak for change in Cuba generally. He said “we can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer.” A revival of the Cuban nation must be a moral revival, he said, noting: “In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions.”
“I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans,” the Pope said. Without spelling out the political implications of those words, he issued an unmistakable call for change.