Luis Felipe Rojas, Translator: Raul G.
Considering the current situation of Cuba, we can conclude that the
social scenario where the government, the peaceful opposition, and the
Catholic Church should move together has been excessively strained.
On one hand, the governing apparatus of General-President Raul Castro
has released a television spot in allusion to the visit of Pope Benedict
XVI to the island, but the faithful say that it is still too little,
alleging that there are "no public posters and it is nowhere near the
social euphoria which John Paul II carried with him", a layman in charge
of communications for the Archbishopric of Santiago de Cuba told the
Diario de Cuba newspaper.
In the provinces of Las Tunas, Granma, and Holguin, faithful churchgoers
have assured that the lists of people who will be allowed to visit the
Pope will be directly controlled by personnel of the Government or the
Communist Party of Cuba, as well the fact that "a member of the
Communist Party municipal committee will be placed in each bus,
accompanying the pilgrims". This has produced a certain unrest among
those who cannot see the purpose of this, considering that it is not a
visit with a political agenda, as the ecclesiastical and state
authorities have stated. Meanwhile, on the other hand, it is nearly
impossible that a Communist militant can spiritually "accompany" a
Interviewed Catholic sources in Guantanamo and Banes assure that, along
with their names they also had to turn in a list with their ID number-
information which they have to check as soon as they board the bus.
The events which occurred nearly a week ago in the Charity Church of
Havana has helped strain how the Church and the peaceful oppositions see
What is true is that during the last years there has been a decrease in
the promotion of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which has become
pending homework for churches. The vertical reinforcement that is the
Catholic structure in all sectors, far from strengthening the bonds with
the people, has created an emerging elite, for today they now talk about
"the men and women of the Church", a term referring to laymen with some
sort of responsibility and many hours under the wing of the bishops,
sacristy, pastors, parish advisors, and diocesans.
The call of Pope John Paul II for "the Church to open up to the world",
is a message we are remembering now. It was in the most literal form
possible, without any hermeneutics in the middle. Opening up to the
world, but also opening up to the community.
Dissidents on the island and the Ladies in White have, in their
respective parishes, been welcomed with love by brave priests and some
loyal churchgoers after the new tactics of marching weekly. But they
have been looked upon with suspicion by the practitioners which shield
themselves behind the idea that the Church is no place for political
issues. In it, one can see a total lack of compromise with the world of
pain, commented Ruben who was a pastor in his community for several years.
The letter Gaudium et spes from the Vatican II Council expresses: "We
have to overcome all forms of discrimination of fundamental rights of
people, whether they be social or cultural, for reasons of sex, race,
color, social condition, language or religion".
The current grudge against the dissidents who seek the Church as a form
of support in their marginalized and persecuted lives is not seen
against the Communist militants who, from the beginning of the 90′s,
were authorized by the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba
to take over Catholic, Evangelical, or Spiritualist Centers.
The vilification of the internal dissidence conducted by the political
police has caught on in society to the point that a certain sector of
the laity and the Catholic community in general see them as a threat to
their peace and tranquility.
Today, the opinions vary among those who remained outside the pilgrimage
lists. Many would have liked to have seen a better management on behalf
of the Catholic hierarchy in regards to the assurance of transportation.
In sum, Ruben adds, "the Virgin of Charity's encounter is with the
people of Cuba, and not just the Catholic churchgoers".
The scene is already set, but the Universal Church gains little if
Cubans, absorbed by the Papal visit, forget that at the center of all
this is the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the apparition of
the Virgin of Charity who, confessions and militancies aside, many
consider to be "the Mother of all Cubans".
This article was written by Luis Felipe Rojas for 'Diario de Cuba'.
Translated by Raul G.
24 March 2012