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Papal Visit to Cuba: Two Points of View

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From the standpoint of a catholic, I say that Cuba was blessed with a second papal visit in fourteen years. It was a well deserved privilege, earned by a good part of the clergy and the faithful, who without resources put into practice the Christian values of caring for the sick and the elderly as well as clothing and feeding those in great need.

From the perspective of the opposition, the visit was politically compromised when within the frame of the protocol it was agreed upon not to meet with any leader of the opposition, or the Ladies in White. At the same time the simple priests and religious sisters, as well as the seminarians were deprived of this opportunity. Those who oppose the system saw how their hope of the recognition of the systematic repression in the country for fifty-three years vanished once more time, and came to be covered with the cloth of "a new evangelization", and the importance of the permanence of the Catholic Church as an institution in Cuba.

The national peregrination celebrating the 400 anniversary of the Virgin of Charity (Virgen de la Caridad) in the island had created expectancies of a new flourishing of the catholic faith. With enthusiasm and joy they looked at the papal visit as the culminating event of this journey. But there was not much to expect from the Cuban Cardinal, Monsignor Jaime Ortega Alamino, who in previous occasions has celebrated masses for the physical recuperation of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, and never for the eternal rest of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Wilman Villar Mendoza, both dead during a hunger strike while in prison.

The political results: a Homily in Santiago de Cuba with a deep content of social issues, like the need to improve the situation of poverty and marginality in the country. He assured that he carries in his heart the hopes and worries of all Cubans, especially those who suffer the lack of liberty. His Holiness Benedict XVI during the mass celebrated in Havana, referred to the changes that Cuba needs, specifying that those changes will be possible if every person opens himself to the integral truth inside him, and find he ready to plant his surroundings with seeds of reconciliation and fraternity.

Another important issue to consider is that the multitude that crowded the plazas in Santiago and Havana were in grand part organized and obligated to attend the event, as part of their day of labor. The lack of enthusiasm during the celebration was notorious, and to the eyes of the Osvaldo Paya Sardinas, winner of the Zaharov Award and practicing catholic, the people in general behaved irreverently because their ignorance of the catholic liturgy.

We can't overlook the amount of abuse, repression, and incarcerations that occurred before, during, and after the Papal visit to the island. The world witnessed the brutal attack on Andres Carrion Alvarez perpetuated by Juan Alberto Rojas Sangredo, an ex-body guard to the Ex-Interior Minister Ramiro Valdes, in Santiago de Cuba, when he dared to shout a statement against the regime.

This demonstrated that nothing has change in that island of dreamers that after more than half a century, continue to fight to make the liberty a reality in the country.