Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated
The visit to Cuba of Pope Benedict XVI has raised conflicting opinions,
both outside and inside the country. The foundations of these have been
given by the Catholic and government authorities themselves, with some
unfortunate statements prior to the trip. This has meant that there are
those who approve it and those who reject it, each group providing the
arguments it considers essential.
I have always defended friendly and sincere dialogue between parties in
conflict, as a smarter and less traumatic way to find solutions. I think
that, in principle, we should not repudiate a dialogue between Church
and State, at the highest level; it requires a second step of
rapprochement between the two (the first was during the visit of Pope
John Paul II in 1998). Another thing, the most important, is the content
of this dialog. No Pope works miracles and we should not wait for them:
we are all Cubans who, ultimately, must solve our problems.
Both the Church and the Cuban State are burdened with numerous
outstanding bills which, in one way or another, have affected people for
more than fifty years. It is no secret that, after shedding the
scapulars, crucifixes and medals of the Virgin of Charity they carried
with them during the insurrection, the new rulers adopted atheism as
state policy, organizing or facilitating attacks against the Catholic
religion, mainly, and supporting other religions and manifestations.
Religious activities (church services, processions, etc.) were mined
from within by introducing into them people from outside the Church, who
propitiated violence, forcing their suspension. They intervened and
nationalized all Catholic schools, forcing students to be educated as
atheists, when it was neither their desire nor that of their parents and
There was also the appropriation of spiritual retreat centers,
seminaries, convents and even church buildings, whose premises were
devoted to other purposes, both civilian and military. They prohibited
the dissemination of Catholic magazines, and shut down radio and
television programs with the same content.
On the list of questions you had to answer to get access to education
and work, they included the absurd question: Do you profess a religion?
The answer determined the acceptance or otherwise of the applicant.
Many projects of life, of honest and talented people, were destroyed by
this inhuman practice, as they were no longer considered reliable. Given
the officially orchestrated public outrage against all Catholic
citizens, more by fear than by conviction, people failed to marry in the
Church, to baptize their children, to attend Mass or Communion, and even
to receive the last rites, leaving the churches empty.
It went as far as the aberration of removing crucifixes and religious
medals worn around the neck, and removing and destroying or hiding the
pictures of the Sacred Heart and similar images, common in any Cuban
household. These realities are hard to hide and to erase, even when
manipulating and rewriting history, especially when those responsible
for them are the same ones who remain in power.
In is in this situation, precisely, that lies the difficulty of
establishing the content of the dialogue: it could go the way of the
problems that plague Cubans in general, the particular problems of the
Church and the Government, or be diluted in the universal issues, more
theoretical than practical, so popular in recent times. One could also
pass through a mixture of all. The results and their significance will
depend on the roads taken.
I imagine that, in one way or another, both the Church and the
Government will try to get the maximum advantage for their particular
interests: one to widen its influence and the other to keep its
influence, trying not to give up their principles, now secular and not
atheist, after the readjustment made some time ago.
It is desirable that Cuba and Cubans be the main winners. This would
justify the Pope's visit and would be a sign of hope for the nation.
March 24 2012