20 March 2012 ~ 3 Comentarios

Pope’s visit to Cuba unites and divides

by Carlos Alberto Montaner

Juan Pablo II Castro

(THE MIAMI HERALD)In 1998, John Paul II went to Cuba. At the time, practically a generation ago, Fidel Castro ruled and the situation, as always, was very critical. John Paul II was the first pope ever to visit the island, and the whole of society welcomed him with a mixture of illusion and fear.

He reputedly had been greatly responsible for the end of the communist tyrannies of Eastern Europe and a secret hope flickered that his presence might unleash a process of change. That was the illusion. The fear, of course, was generated by the government’s repression.

Fourteen years later, Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Cuba. Has anything changed? Yes, it’s a different country and another generation, but it’s also the same government, now presided over by Raúl Castro, while Fidel, decrepit and ill, amuses himself guiding the world through the Internet, wrapped in an odd-looking sports sweatsuit. The fundamental difference is that there is no longer any hope that the wretched fate of that society will change.

The dictatorship insists on maintaining the essential features of a totalitarian, brutal and unproductive model, dolled up with some minor vestiges of private property, and the entire world knows that the experiment is bound to fail.

Nevertheless, everybody wins and loses with the visit.

The dictatorship and Raúl Castro seek legitimacy and want to show that the government is open and tolerant with any nation or institution (the Catholic Church is both) that does not question the political model.

But seated at Raúl’s right are a few fellows who are mired in dogma and don’t look approvingly on the pope’s presence, while at his left are a huge majority of reformers who would like to bury, once and for all, that old, unmourned corpse known as communism.

To remove that beehive is not in the best interests of the Castros’ military dynasty. Yet it’s doing it. The Catholic Church is going through something similar. The pope’s visit unites and divides simultaneously.

• Rome and the church want, first, to spread the faith and preach Christianity. They want to increase the number of the faithful, today substantially reduced by the huge mass of Cubans who have found refuge in diverse African creeds: santeros, paleros, abakuás and other sects. They’re also eager to be allowed to teach and build citizens and to be permitted to have organs of communication to participate in the social debate. So far, there isn’t the slightest inkling that they’ll be authorized to do all that, but in the meantime they’re walking a straight line in case they are.

• Secondly, as good Christians, Rome and the church are horrified by the consequences of the system, but within the Cuban ecclesiastical hierarchy there is also a bitter division that is now widening. On one side are Cardinal Jaime Ortega and some bishops who are willing to extend compassion to the victims without trying to eliminate the causes, in exchange for increasing the presence and influence of the church.

On the other side are other bishops, numerous priests, clerics and the more committed lay people, like the Ladies in White, Dagoberto Valdés and Oswaldo Payá, who know that it is useless to feed the elderly and disabled and ask for mercy for sick prisoners unless changes are made in the political model that creates the poverty and the terror that keeps the prisons full and enables mobs to beat up the democrats on the streets and in their homes. To them, as to most of the nation, the solution is not in a partial relief of the disease but in its definitive eradication by peaceful means.

• Finally, to the democratic opposition, the pope’s visit is a unique opportunity to make itself heard. For 48 hours, the world, through hundreds of journalists and all the important means of communication, will fix its eyes on Cuba. That is why the Ladies in White, almost all of them faithful Catholics, have asked the pope for one minute, just one minute, to comfort them, as the Vicar of Christ on Earth must do, because they suffer much — they are beaten, jailed and offended constantly — and to give him a video where they clearly explain the tribulations experienced by the Cubans.

That is why other dissidents, in total desperation, though criticized by some of their colleagues, have begun to occupy churches, as has been done in several Latin American countries, because those temples are minimal spaces for freedom where they can voice their complaints, at least for a while.

I expect the pope will return to the Vatican more confused than when he reaches Cuba. That’s what usually happens to those who travel there. The island will have to undergo an exorcism.

3 Responses to “Pope’s visit to Cuba unites and divides”

  1. joseluis 23 March 2012 at 8:51 pm Permalink

    Dicen los Castro
    Cuba responde al Papa: ‘escucharemos con respeto’
    papa- escucharemos.
    Todos aquellos que cosemos a los Castro, sabemos que sus palabras son frías y calculadas, y en sus expresiones hay mucho de un actor teatral; pero eso no quiere decir que los Castro buscan sobre vivencia y los católicos le están dando la mano, aquellos que un día los humillaron, los desterraron, y los encarcelaron.
    Es la palabra de Cristo, si te dan una bofetada, pues pon la otra mejilla.
    La razón está al favor de la civilización, vencen los que tienen la verdad, o los que se acercan a la justicia y los comunistas no les queda mas remedio que ver la realidad objetiva.

  2. joseluis 23 March 2012 at 9:04 pm Permalink

    Los comunista, aunque la prensa “liberal” los apañe, no pueden dejar de reconocer en silencio que los comunistas, son dos veces mas crueles que los nacionales socialista y que los fascistas, la diferencia es: que los comunista matan de hambre y humillan a sus sociedades, y en sus record: cuatrocientos millones de asesinatos, solo Estalin o Stalin.

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