After Pope Benedict XVI’s sadly disappointing visit to Cuba in late March where he completely ignored the island’s Catholic dissidents while warmly embracing dictators Raul and Fidel Castro, the leader of the Catholic Church has sent the Cuba’s acting dictator a letter of thanks. Once again, the letter uses the same banal language the pope employed during his visit with veiled and lukewarm references to “freedom.” Shamefully, the letter also apparently makes no mention of Cuba’s Catholic dissidents or the hundreds upon hundreds of peaceful human rights activists who were brutally beaten and arrested before and during the pope’s visit to the island.
HAVANA – Pope Benedict XVI asked that Cuba continue its journey along the paths of “freedom, solidarity and harmony” in a letter to President Raul Castro, made public Friday, thanking him for the hospitality and attention he received during his March visit to the island.
“I respond to the exquisite hospitality shown me in the unforgettable days I spent in your country… with a prayer to Almighty God that Cuba continue making decisive progress along the paths of freedom, solidarity and harmony for the common good and the immediate progress of all its sons and daughters,” the pope said in a missive published this Friday in the daily Granma.
The letter dated April 3 reached Raul Castro on April 27, according to the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, which published the complete text of the letter on its front page this Friday.
The pontiff expressed his “deepest gratitude” to the Cuban president for the “meticulous attention” he received during his pastoral visit to the Caribbean island.
“I was able to meet with the Cuban people, to confirm them in their faith and encourage all of them to feel they are indispensable actors in the construction of a peaceful, bright and hopeful future,” the pontiff wrote.
In his letter the pope sent a “special apostolic blessing” to the Cuban people and commended his “righteous aspirations” to “the sweet gaze” of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of the island.
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the appearance of the statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Benedict XVI visited Cuba between March 26-28 after first traveling to Mexico on his second trip to Latin America and his first to Spanish-speaking countries.
On the island he said two outdoor Masses before crowds of the faithful in Santiago de Cuba and Havana, the country’s two largest cities, visited the shrine of the “Mambisa Virgin” as Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre is popularly known, met with Raul Castro and paid a visit to ex-President Fidel Castro.
In his speeches and sermons on the island, the pontiff preached in favor of mankind’s basic freedoms and the reconciliation among Cubans, asked that “immovable positions” be banished, argued in favor of a “renewed” society and for “wider horizons” and called for “changes” on the island and worldwide.
He also pleaded for greater religious freedom on the Caribbean island to allow the Catholic Church to contribute more in the way of social work, chiefly in the field of teaching.
The pope did not meet with members of Cuba’s dissident movement, whose representatives reported that hundreds of government opponents were temporarily arrested in the days before and during the papal visit.
One of the more immediate fruits of the visit was the Cuban government’s decision to declare last Good Friday a holiday in answer to one of the pope’s requests. EFE