Montaner: What the pope saw in Cuba
What the pope saw in Cuba
Hundreds of millions of people watched the pope in Cuba, heard his utterings and observed what happened. Naturally, each one of those witnesses perceived the visit differently. What’s interesting now is to find out what the perception was among the pope and his Vatican entourage.
This is what I’ve been able to find out through ecclesiastical sources (and others) that wish to remain in absolute anonymity. Some of those sources were very close to the Holy Father.
• First. Benedict XVI was struck by the huge contrast between the Mexican welcome — joyous, free, multitudinous and spontaneous — in a city that was alive and economically vibrant, and the tense Cuban ceremonies, evidently controlled by the political police, held in a country impoverished to the point of misery, and preceded by hundreds of detentions.
The horrific spectacle of a young man savagely beaten by a policeman disguised as a Red Cross stretcher-bearer touched the pope’s heart and caused him to take a personal interest in the man’s fate. After all, the poor man had only shouted “Down with communism,” the common man’s echo of what the pontiff himself had said when he left Italy, when he declared that Marxism was a failed ideology that needed to be buried.
• Second. The pope and his retinue found it lamentable that Raúl Castro chose to deliver in Santiago de Cuba a classic Stalinist Cold-War speech intended to justify the dictatorship. They had expected a message of change and hope, not a reiteration of the regime’s main arguments.
That text, along with the speeches made by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez and the vice president in charge of economics, Marino Alberto Murillo, convinced them that Raúl Castro is much more interested in remaining anchored in the past than in preparing a better future for the Cubans.
• Third. They ascertained — painfully — that the plea made by the Pope John Paul II during his visit 14 years ago, to the effect that the Cubans lose their fear, had been for naught. Except for a few hundred opposition democrats who are permanently harassed and beaten, sometimes jailed, Cuba’s is a society rotted by fear.
But the manifestation of fear that intrigued them the most was not that of the oppositionists but that of the apparent supporters. They heard their double-talk up close and were terrified.
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