Pope Francis and Catholic Bishops call for dialogue in Cuba



VATICAN CITY (RNS) – When Saint John Paul II landed in Cuba in January 1998, he became the first pontiff to visit the country, where he shared his hope for peace and freedom among his Catholic faithful.

“May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open up to the world, and may the world open up to Cuba,” said Jean-Paul in a now famous statement issued upon his arrival.

Today, Cuba remains at the heart of the Holy See’s international efforts for reconciliation as Pope Francis renews his calls for dialogue and peace in a country plagued by political and social unrest.

In his first public address after leaving the Roman hospital where he underwent colon surgery, Francis addressed the Cuban people who eagerly awaited the pontiff to speak out on the large-scale protests shaking the nation of Caribbean.

“I am close to the dear Cuban people in these difficult times, especially the families who are suffering the most. I pray that the Lord will help the nation to build a more just and fraternal society through peace, dialogue and solidarity, ”Francis said on Sunday July 18 amid the cheers of expatriates proudly waving their Cuban flags in Saint -Rock. Square.

RELATED: 2 Weeks After Surgery Pope Francis Appears at Vatican Window

His remarks came a week after thousands of Cubans, mostly young people, took to the streets of the country to protest against the regime led by President Miguel Diaz-Canel, successor to Raul Castro. Protesters condemned rampant poverty rates, power shortages and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cuban President Raul Castro, right, smiles as he meets Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican, May 10, 2015. (Pool photo via AP / Gregorio Borgia)

The Cuban government sent police forces to crack down on protesters, making hundreds of arrests and cutting off mobile services and internet access to its citizens. Diaz-Canel also led counter-protests, in which he criticized the United States for its role in “destroying sacred unity and the tranquility of the citizens”.

As unrest engulfs many countries in Latin America – from Colombia to Nicaragua and now Cuba – the Catholic Church has tried to use its social influence to promote peaceful dialogue among the faithful while supporting freedom of expression.

In one declaration of July 12, Cuban bishops acknowledged that “people have the right to express their needs, wants and hopes” and to speak publicly about how the measures taken by the government have negatively affected their lives, but also warned that “violence breeds violence ”and encouraged citizens to seek dialogue and solutions that do not fuel acrimony.

The call for amicable and non-violent solutions was echoed by Archbishop Dionisio Garcia de Santiago, who encouraged the faithful to rely on “dialogue, mercy and forgiveness, and never with violence. and intolerance ”, during his Sunday mass at the National Shrine of the Virgin of Caridad del Cobre, the patron saint of Cuba.

Pope Francis also entrusted his prayers to the Virgin of Charity in his address to the Angelus. In 2015, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, the Argentine pontiff visited Cuba in what is considered a highlight of Francis’ travels abroad.

He also scored a victory for Vatican diplomacy by organizing the meeting in Havana between then-US President Barack Obama and Raúl Castro in 2016, which strengthened the recently restored diplomatic relations between the two countries.

After Francis’ visit, Cuba lifted some restrictions on religious freedom in the country, allowing its some 6 million Catholics to attend mass. But the local church remains under the strict control and limitations of the government.

As tensions rise in Cuba and grudges resurface against the United States, the Catholic Church is once again attempting mediation. “We urge the United States to seek the peace that flows from reconciliation and harmony among our countries,” the statement read. July 19 statement signed by the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

Along with the Holy See and the bishops of Cuba, the episcopate in the United States also “called for a strong cultural and commercial engagement between the United States and Cuba as a means of helping the island achieve greater prosperity. and social transformation ”.

The American bishops and Pope Francis have often spoken out against the economic embargo that has stifled the Cuban economy for decades.

ALSO READ: Will Those With Advanced Dementia Be The Next To Be Called Less Than Human?



Comments are closed.