....to JusticeGhana Group

 Welcome to JusticeGhana

JusticeGhana is a Non-Governmental [and-not-for- profit] Organization (NGO) with a strong belief in Justice, Security and Progress....” More Details

High hopes for Pope's Cuba visit

The Pope heads to Cuba this MondayThe Pope heads to Cuba this Monday, a country where the potential for change is reflected in the hopes of the religious faithful and the political opposition. But it is unlikely Benedict can meet all the expectations.

Many Cubans still remember the visit of Pope John Paul II who, on a trip to the island in 1998, officially restored Christmas as a non-working public holiday, making it the country's only religious holiday.

JGhana Ads
As he strengthened the renewed relationship between church and state, the Polish pope also condemned the American economic embargo on Cuba and met with then-President Fidel Castro on behalf of about 100 political prisoners.

He also met with Cuba's intellectuals, members of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths and named the Virgin of Charity in El Cobre as the country's patron saint, the "mother of all Cubans, regardless of race, political affiliation or ideology."

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, will travel to Cuba next week as a "pilgrim of mercy" to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the patron saint. On his trip, the German pope will meet the country's new head of state, and will, according to Arturo Lopez Levy, Cuban-American political scientist at the University of Denver, find "improved relations" with the national church hierarchy since his predecessor's visit.

The new President Raul Castro is seen as less charismatic than his older brother Fidel, but more in control of institutional order, with Cuba in the midst of an overhaul of its economic and political systems. Castro's supporters and moderate critics have described it as an "update," as "reforms" and a "transition." His opponents, however, have disparagingly referred to it as "recycling."

Religious melting pot

In the middle of all this is the Cuban church, aiming to make advances in key areas. For decades it was denied any change, but now it is slowly making headway with a more tolerant government.

It is gaining more religious freedom, developing an educational and media network parallel to that of the state - with summer schools, digital publications and occasional media appearances - and a state mediator role on issues of national and international importance, such as the recent release of political prisoners.

The Pope's visit has stirred up enthusiasm and curiosity in a Cuban population that, according to Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the general vicar of the archdiocese of Havana, is "very religious" but generally non-practising.

Catholic authorities say about 60 percent of Cuba's 11.2 million people are baptized, but only 5 percent attend church regularly. In daily life, an estimated 75 - 85 percent of the population come into contact with people from many different religions: Catholics with Protestants, Jews with those of the Orthodox faith, and even some Muslims and followers of African faiths such as Santeria.

Although none of these religions are so institutionalized and internationally powerful as the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict is planning ecumenical meetings with followers of these faiths on his trip.

Anticipation and criticism

The government is planning to make the island's public transportation available for the two papal masses on March 26 and 28. Government employees who wish to attend in Santiago and Havana will be given the day off.

There has been less criticism of the Pope ahead of this visit in Cuba – even though liberal critics outside the official Communist Party have condemned the Church's stance on contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage.

In general, the majority of Cubans, the opposition and the Cuban diaspora are looking forward to the visit, says Lopez Levy. Around 400 pilgrims are expected from abroad. The Pope stands for greater religious freedom and the promise of greater political pluralism, he adds. Reconciliation, dialogue, moderation, a gradual opening – these are the keywords of the church authorities, according to the political scientist adds.

Nevertheless, the church does not take kindly to surprise acts of civil disobedience, such as the recent occupation of a Havana church by opposition members, or the planned march by the "Damas de Blanco," the dissident Ladies in White group, along a different route in order to force a meeting with the pope.

Church with an agenda

The Vatican is pursuing its own themes on the trip. It sees the Cuban Church as an advocate for "responsible nationalism" in thought and action, both inside and outside the country's government.

This, at least, is the view of Lopez Levy and Lenier Gonzalez, publishers of the Cuban magazine Espacio Laical. The moderate Cuban Church is backing a "more pluralistic political system and an economy with a greater market participation," but at the same time important advances for education and health.

It rejects the foreign interference of the United States and the European Union, as well as the "radical proposals of a totalitarian state and neoliberal capitalism" – a mission, and a major challenge for Pope Benedict.

Author: Rosa Munoz Lima, Violeta Campos / cmk Editor: Ben Knight

Source: Deutsche Welle



 1000 Characters left

Antispam Refresh image Case sensitive

JusticeGhana Group *All Rights Reserved © 2007-2013*Privacy Policy