When Pope John Paul II arrived for a six-day trip to Cuba on January 21, 1998, he closed his first address to the Cuban people with a historic message: “May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba.”
As Cuba prepares for a massive anti-government protest amid fears of state repression, the country’s bishops have urged calm and non-violence, saying any meaningful change will only come as a result of peaceful dialogue.
Many were shocked on Sunday when the Vatican police forced a group of 15 Cuban demonstrators to put down their Cuban flags at the Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square. Although political manifestations have always been banned at the event, pilgrims often bring flags, hoping Pope Francis will make mention of their country.
Pope Francis, Sunday, expressed closeness to Cuba in his traditional noontime Angelus address, and he voiced the hope that the country will become more just and fraternal. While those words may elicit only quiet reaction within Cuba itself, a band of Cuban expatriates who gathered in St. Peter’s Square didn’t disguise their anguish.
Jesuit priests may have educated the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro but, as a Communist dictator, he sought to separate people from religion — a grim legacy that Catholics still struggle to overcome.
Four Cuban American bishops called on the international community to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Cuba and expressed solidarity with them following protests that erupted on the island nation starting July 11.