BENEDICT XVI: “CUBA AND THE WORLD NEED CHANGE”
Vatican City, 28 March 2012 (VIS) – At 9 a.m. today the Holy Father presided at Mass in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti, in the presence of thousands of faithful who had come from all over Cuba. Extracts from Benedict XVI’s homily are given below:
““If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”. In this text from today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals Himself as the Son of God the Father, the Saviour, the One Who alone can show us the truth and give us genuine freedom. His teaching provokes resistance and disquiet among His hearers. … Even so, He exhorts them to believe, to keep His word, so as to know the truth which redeems and justifies.
“The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, without a doubt, would prefer to take the easy way out, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is, … or deny that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. There are too many who, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.
“On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. … Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and He gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes”.
“Furthermore, the truth which stands above humanity is an unavoidable condition for attaining freedom, since in it we discover the foundation of an ethics on which all can converge and which contains clear and precise indications concerning life and death, duties and rights, marriage, family and society, in short, regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person. This ethical patrimony can bring together different cultures, peoples and religions, authorities and citizens, citizens among themselves, and believers in Christ and non-believers.
“Christianity, in highlighting those values which sustain ethics, does not impose, but rather proposes Christ’s invitation to know the truth which sets us free. … In Christ we find the truth about God and about mankind. He helps us to overcome our selfishness, to rise above our vain struggles and to conquer all that oppresses us. The one who does evil, who sins, becomes its slave and will never attain freedom. Only by renouncing hatred and our hard and blind hearts will we be free and a new life will well up in us”.
“The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory. To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world. It must be said with joy that in Cuba steps have been taken to enable the Church to carry out her essential mission of expressing her faith openly and publicly. Nonetheless, this must continue forwards, and I wish to encourage the country’s government 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 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. It also legitimises the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favourable conditions for peace and harmonious development. … When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, we become more human and our humanity becomes authentic. This is why the Church seeks to give witness by her preaching and teaching, both in catechesis and in the schools and universities. It is greatly to be hoped that the moment will soon arrive when, here too, the Church can bring to the fields of knowledge the benefits of the mission which the Lord entrusted to her and which she can never neglect.
“A shining example of this commitment is found in the outstanding priest Felix Varela, teacher and educator, an illustrious son of this city of Havana, who has taken his place in Cuban history as the first one who taught his people how to think. Father Varela offers us a path to a true transformation of society: to form virtuous men and women in order to forge a worthy and free nation, for this transformation depends on the spiritual, in as much as “there is no authentic fatherland without virtue”. Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity”.
MEETING BETWEEN THE POPE AND FORMER PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO
Vatican City, 28 March 2012 (VIS) – After celebrating Mass this morning in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti, Benedict XVI held a meeting in the apostolic nunciature with Fidel Castro, former president of Cuba.
“I took the decision to ask for some moments of your time, which I know is full of commitments, when I learned that you would take pleasure in this modest and simple encounter”, said Fidel Castro to the Pope. During the meeting, which according to Vatican Radio lasted about half an hour, the former president spoke to the Holy Father of his pleasure at the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who had been a great benefactress of Cuba, and of John Paul II, “a man whose contact with children and ordinary citizens invariably aroused feelings of affection”. For his part Benedict XVI spoke of his own pleasure at being in Cuba and at the cordiality of his welcome.
Fidel Castro asked the Pope a number of questions about changes in the liturgy and the role of the Pontiff, and Benedict XVI replied by speaking about his meeting with peoples and his service to the universal Church. The former president also turned his attention to the plight mankind is facing in the modern world, while the Pope spoke of the absence and non recognition of God, and the fundamental importance of the relationship between faith and reason. Finally, Castro asked the Pope to send him a number of books to enable him to study the issues raised in their talk, and Benedict XVI said he would give thought to which texts to send. Finally, the former president presented the Pope his wife and two of his children.
CUBA, DRAW STRENGTH FROM THE FAITH TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE
Vatican City, 28 March 2012 (VIS) – As the Pope prepared to leave Cuba this afternoon he recalled the profound impression that country had left on his predecessor Blessed John Paul II, “when he came to these lands as a herald of truth and hope”. Benedict XVI reiterated the fact that he had come to Cuba as a pilgrim of love, to give thanks to the Virgin Mary “who has accompanied the journey of the Church in this nation and given encouragement to all Cubans so that, from the hand of Christ, they might discover the true meaning of the desires and aspirations found in the human heart and gain the strength needed to build a fraternal society in which no one feels excluded”.
At Jose Marti airport in Havana, where he arrived at 4.30 p.m. amid the acclamation of tens of thousands of faithful who had thronged to see him, the Pope thanked the president and other State authorities “for the interest and generous cooperation which they have shown in the the preparation of this journey”. He also thanked members of the episcopal conference and others who had spared no effort to ensure the success of his visit. “I hold deep in my heart all the Cuban people, each and every one. You have surrounded me with prayer and affection, offered me cordial hospitality and shared with me your profound and rightful aspirations.
“I came here as a witness to Jesus Christ, convinced that, wherever He is present, discouragement yields to hope, goodness dispels uncertainties and a powerful force opens up the horizon to beneficial and unexpected possibilities”, said the Holy Father. He also expressed the hope that Christ’s message of salvation would strengthen the zeal and pastoral concern of Cuban bishops and all who cooperate the work of evangelisation, particularly the lay faithful so that, “by intensifying their commitment to God in the midst of their homes and workplaces, they may never tire of offering their responsible contribution for the good and the integral progress of their homeland.
“The path which Christ points out to humanity, and to each particular individual and people, is not a source of constraint, but rather the primary and principal premise for their authentic development. The light of the Lord, has shone brightly during these days; may that light never fade in those who have welcomed it; may it help all people to foster social harmony and to allow the blossoming of all that is finest in the Cuban soul, its most noble values, which can be the basis for building a society of broad vision, renewed and reconciled. May no one feel excluded from taking up this exciting search for his or her basic freedoms, or excused from this this by indolence or lack of material resources, a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people.
“I now conclude my pilgrimage, but I will continue praying fervently that you will go forward and that Cuba will be the home of all and for all Cubans, where justice and freedom coexist in a climate of serene fraternity. Respect and promotion of freedom which is present in the heart of each person are essential in order to respond adequately to the fundamental demands of his or her dignity and, in this way, to build up a society in which all are indispensable actors in the future of their life, their family and their country.
“The present hour urgently demands that in personal, national and international coexistence we reject immovable positions and unilateral viewpoints which tend to make understanding more difficult and efforts at cooperation ineffective. Possible discrepancies and difficulties will be resolved by tirelessly seeking what unites everyone, with patient and sincere dialogue, and a willingness to listen and accept goals which will bring new hope.
“Cuba, look again to the faith of your elders, draw from that faith the strength to build a better future, trust in the Lord’s promises, and open your heart to His Gospel so as to renew authentically your personal and social life.
“As I bid you a heartfelt adios, I ask our Lady of Charity of El Cobre to protect all Cubans under her mantle, to sustain them in the midst of their trials and to obtain from Almighty God the grace that they most desire. Hasta siempre, Cuba, a land made beautiful by the maternal presence of Mary. May God bless your future”.
Having concluded his farewell address, Benedict XVI boarded his plane for Rome where, following a flight of ten and a half hours, he arrived at 10.15 a.m. local time on 29 March.