Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pope Calls for Change During Havana Mass

During an outdoor mass held in Havana this morning Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the need for change worldwide as well greater religious freedom in Cuba.

“The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer,” the pope said in his homily. He added that while the Cuban government has granted greater liberties to the Catholic Church, the pontiff called on “authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole”.

The Pope highlighted the efforts of Fr. Felix Varela, a figure in Cuba’s independence movement from Spain in the 1800s who is currently being considered for sainthood. The Pope observed that “Father Varela offers us a path to a true social transformation: to form virtuous men and women in order to forge a worthy and free nation, for this transformation depends on man’s spiritual life, in as much as ‘there is no authentic fatherland without virtue.

An estimated 300,000 people including senior government and Church officials gathered at the Revolutionary Square for today’s mass. The site also served as the centerpiece for Pope John Paul visit to Cuba in 1998, which led to greater recognition of the Catholic Church by the government.

On Tuesday the Pope spoke at the sanctuary of Cuba's patron saint, Our Lady of Charity, and said that he prayed for those “deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty.” He also expressed his deepest sympathies for “the nearby people of Haiti, who still suffer the consequences of the earthquake of two years ago.”

The Pope met with Cuban President Raul Castro yesterday and is expected to visit former leader Fidel Castro this afternoon. It’s unknown if the Pontiff will renew his call for greater political freedom despite economic czar Marino Murillo’s declaration that “in Cuba there will not be political reform.”

Several Cuban dissidents have called on the authorities to publish the identity and whereabouts of a man who was taken away by security agents after shouting anti-communist slogans at a mass on Monday. The man, who proclaimed ''Down with the Revolution! Down with the dictatorship!” was also assaulted with a stretcher by a person wearing a Red Cross bib.

Another point of contention was whether or not Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez met with the Pope. Vatican officials denied rumors that both leaders met yesterday in private and that the Pope gave “his blessing for a quick recovery” to the ailing Chavez.

Video Source – YouTube via

Online Sources – Miami Herald, Catholic News Service, MSNBC, IOL, New York Daily News, Bloomberg, Times of India

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