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Cuba waits for the Pope Francisco

By Samuel Rivas / Posted March 14, 2015

 

Pope Francisco will be very soon be the third Pontiff in to Cuba and Havana city is getting ready for the transcendental moment.

A gigantic image of Jesus Christ is now covering the whole facade of the National Library, at the right wing of the Revolution Square. Meanwhile, the other side is occupied by the altar where the Pope will say a mass next September 20th.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio will land at the International Airport in Havana, on Saturday 19th. After the official welcome ceremony, the Bishop of Rome will have other public activities, and perhaps a meeting with Fidel Castro.

Following a Pope’s request, Vatican and Cuban authorities have already arranged a private meeting between Francisco and the former Cuban president.

The first meeting between Fidel Castro and a Pope took place on November 19, 1996, when John Paul II received the Cuban leader at Vatican. The private conversation lasted for 35 minutes, and laid the foundations for the Karol Wojtyla visit to Cuba, two years later.

che-guevara-is-at-the-leftIn March 2012 it was the turn for the Pope Benedictus XVI, who met Fidel Castro at the Apostolic Nunciature in Havana.

On this visit, on Sunday 20th, 2015 after the multitudinous mass, Francisco will visit President Raul Castro at the Revolution Palace. Bergoglio and Raúl Castro already met last May in Rome, when the current Cuban president said he was impressed by the “wisdom and modesty” of the Argentinian Pope.

In fact, Castro should be really grateful, since Francisco has developed a very important role in the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and USA. As an example of the improving of the current relationship, Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami, will also come to Cuba for the mass, bringing 189 pilgrims from Miami, the main city of Cuba exile.

According to Wenski, the Pope “will support what Cuban Church has been doing, and will encourage the reconciliation of the Cuban people”.

As an answer to the Catholic Church, official newspapers just announced the pardon for 3,522 prisoners, the highest number since 1959. During the last visit of Benedictus XVI in 2012, the regime pardoned 2,991 prisoners.

On the other hand, Cuban Christians together with ecclesiastic authorities have asked to the Sumo Pontiff for the beatification of the Cuban Priest Félix Varela (1788-1853), who was an example to follow by his generation at the beginning of 19th Century.

Varela dreamed and planned Cuba as a free, just, and sovereign country, making a hard and fertile work in areas such as pedagogy, culture, socio-politics, and spirituality. He stood out in public debates regarding theological and philosophical topics about faith, person, and society.

Another sector of Cuban society, LGBT activists, have shown their concern about the official position of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality, equalitarian marriage, abortion, and the use of condoms.

The Pope Francisco will stay at the capital until Monday 21st, when he departs towards Holguín and Santiago de Cuba. Next day, he will fly to USA.

Cuban Church has been a beneficiary of Popes’ visit. For example, Christmas became an official festivity for Cubans in 1998, after the visit of John Paul II, and the celebration of Easter Day was aloud after the trip of Benedictus XVI in 2012.

Right now, two new Catholic churches are being built, one in Havana, and the other in western province of Pinar del Río.

Although the Cuban population is not mainly Catholic, it is fair to expect a warm reception for the highest leader of Christians in the world.

Samuel Rivas

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