HAVANA: The Pope Francis was warmly and respectfully welcomed to Cuba by both believers and non-believers for a pastoral visit described as transcendental and historic, during which the Holy Pontiff reiterated his opposition to war and his support for peace, dialogue and reconciliation.
From September 19-22, the bishop of Rome officiated at masses in Havana, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba, made a courtesy call to Fidel Castro; historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, and had a meeting with president Raul Castro and visited heritage sites.
His Holiness arrived in the Cuban capital during the afternoon of September 19, where he was welcomed at Jose Marti International Airport by president Raul Castro.
In his first speech, the Pope thanked the president for his welcome and his thoughtful words in the name of the Government and the people of Cuba.
The head of the Catholic Church took advantage of his time in Cuba to acknowledge the process that led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S, and called on the politicians responsible to continue their progress in this regard.
„We have been witnessing over the course of recent months something that fills us with hope: the process of normalization of relations between two peoples, distant for years“. He said that the process was a sign of victory in the culture of the meeting.
The Cuban president in turn emphasized the first Latin American Pope’s declarations regarding social affairs and the future of and care for humanity and the planet, which he said would serve as references for the U.N. Summit on the post 2015 development Agenda and the Paris climate change conference.
Raul Castro thanked the Supreme Pontiff for his support with the talks with the U.S.
The president said that „the reestablishment of diplomatic relations was a first step in a process towards the normalization of bilateral ties which requires a resolution of problems and the repair of injustices. The blockade, which has resulted in the deprivation of Cuban families and is responsible for harm caused to people, is cruel, immoral and illegal and should be lifted.“
This visit by the Bishop of Rome is the third Papal visit to Cuba in 17 years and follows those by John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012.
Born on December 17, 1936 in Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope number 266 on the March 13, 2013 to replace Benedict XVI, who had retired a few days before.
The first Vatican Head of State from the American continent chose his Papal name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, an Italian saint and founder of the Franciscan Order who was known for his commitment to the poor.
MESSAGES AND AGAINST WAR AND IN FAVOUR OF PEACE
During his Papacy, Pope Francis has endeavored to introduce a new culture of Catholic Church leadership, closer to the most marginalized and has criticized in a number of his sermons an economic model that follows a profit-only logic that excludes many and also destroys the environment.
In a meeting with young people at the Felix Varela Cultural Center in Havana, Jorge Mario Bergoglio reflected on the serious situation faced by the youth of Europe due to the lack of employment opportunities.
He regretted that „they form part of a disposable culture. In the Empire of the Money God, people and things are disposable“.
The Pope has also drawn worldwide attention to his declarations against war and in favor of dialogue to resolve conflict.
He warned that „the world needs reconciliation during this third world war by stages that we are living through“.
During his words in Havana´s historic Revolution Square the Pope Francis also called for peace in Colombia and highlighted efforts undertaken by Cuba in this regard.
He said „may the blood shed by thousands of innocents during so many decades of armed conflict become one with the blood shed by Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and sustain everybody -- including those from this beautiful island --in their endeavors for a definitive resolution“.
During an extensive exchange with Fidel Castro, historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, topics such as the preservation of peace and the survival of the human species were discussed.
Fidel highly praised the Pontiff for his repeated public comments in favor of distinctive social strata and his commitment to the well being of humankind whilst Francisco thanked Cuba for its contributions to peace and the preservation of the human species in a world swamped by hatred and aggression.
The Holy Father’s visit coincided with the 80th anniversary of uninterrupted relations between Cuba and the Holy See. In addition to the aforementioned sites, the Pope also visited the Cathedrals of Havana and Santiago de Cuba, the Hill of the Cross in Holguín and Caridad del Cobre Sanctuary in Santiago de Cuba.
On every street, avenue and plaza that the Pope Francis passed, the Cuban people warmly welcomed him with traditional hospitality and respect.Share on FB Share on TT