Monday, March 26, 2012

The Pope in Cuba: The Wind, the Sheep and the Shepherd

Yoani Sanchez - Award-winning Cuban blogger

The Pope in Cuba: The Wind, the Sheep and the Shepherd
Posted: 03/26/2012 8:51 am

In that January of 1998, at the end of John Paul II's Mass in the Plaza
of the Revolution, a fresh wind swept over the vast esplanade. My son
was sitting on the shoulders of his father and the breeze swirled his
hair. The Pope had already ended his homily, but still, he picked up the
microphone again and dedicated several words in Latin to that naughty
streak that ruffled all of us. "Spiritus spirat ubi vult et vult
Cubam*," he said. We came home a while later, squeezed among thousands
of people dressed in white and yellow. Since then, I have the feeling
that the gale has not stopped beating on us, that this gust has blown
across the island, shaking all our lives.

Benedict still has yet to arrive Cuba and already part of this whirlwind
is agitating us. Among the Catholic faithful, joy is seen for the papal
visit, and expectations that this will contribute to widening the role
of the Church in our society. For those who had to keep their crucifixes
hidden for decades for fear of radical atheism, the gradual elimination
of religious intolerance comes as a relief. That Masses have already
been broadcast on official television, and processions through the
streets carrying the image of the Virgin of Charity are permitted, to
many seem sufficient ground gained. However, for every minute in the
mass media achieved by the Church hierarchy and every word exchanged
with the government at the negotiating table, there has been a
corresponding share of loss and defeat. Because, let's not fool
ourselves, the clandestine nature of the catacombs is more consistent
with the discourse of Christ than is the comfortable proximity to the

Less than 24 hours before the Pope arrives in Cuba, the script of his
stay among us is already written, and not precisely by the delegation
from the Vatican. Raul's government has undertaken an "ideological
cleansing" to prevent activists, dissidents, opponents, independent
journalists, alternative bloggers and other malcontents from even
reaching the plazas where His Holiness will speak. Threats to not leave
their homes, disproportionate operations, arrests, cut telephone lines,
people deported from the east of the country to prevent their being in
Antonio Maceo Plaza this coming Monday. A roundup of intransigence that
recalls those times of ripped scapulars and cassocks spit upon by the
fanatic sons of a Revolution that declared itself materialistic and
dialectic. It is true they no longer chase after rosaries, but they
continue to relentlessly pursue opinions. Now, having a picture of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus will not cost anyone their job, but to believe
that a free Cuba is possible is to be made to suffer the stigmatization
and the Calvary. We can now pray out loud, but to criticize the
government is still a sin, blasphemy.

It now remains in the hands and voice of Benedict XVI whether to allow
his visit to be hijacked by the intentions of a Party that remains
committed to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine. In his eyes is the ability
to notice that among the faithful gathered in the plazas, numerous sheep
of the Cuban herd have been prevented from reaching even the vicinity of
his staff. In his ears is the decision to hear other voices beyond the
official or the strictly pastoral. With that ancient wisdom that the
Church calls on before every obstacle, the Pope should know that on this
visit a part of the presence and influence of the Catholic faith in the
national future is decided. In his hands, in his voice, in his ears, it
is left, then, to confirm to us that he understands the transcendence of
this moment.

It may happen that a playful wind escapes control, mocks the political
police and blows over the multitude. A free breeze in a gagged country
that brings even the papal eardrums themselves its vibrations, the
phrases that we can only whisper.

*Translator's note:
At the end of his homily Pope John Paul II added some extemporaneous
words: This wind today is very significant because wind symbolizes the
Holy Spirit. "Spiritus spirat ubi vult; Spiritus vult spirare in Cuba".
My last words are in Latin, because Cuba also has a Latin tradition:
Latin America, Latin Cuba, Latin language! "Spiritus spirat ubi vult et
vult Cubam"! Goodbye.
The Latin, roughly, means: The spirit spreads wherever it wants; it
wants to spread in Cuba... The spirit spreads wherever it wants and to Cuba.

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