This week Cuba meets one of the most famous and popular leaders in the world. What is the spiritual and political influence of citizens of this country and its leaders, the visit of Pope Francis?
There was a very important moment for the entire region. Many hope that the Pope’s visit will pave the way for positive change in this Communist country.
In a few months Cuba was preparing for the visit of Pope Francis. This first Hispanic Pontiff will be especially close to 11-million population of the country. Pope John Paul II visited Cuba almost 20 years ago, and after he is made Pope Benedict in 2012. Why, three years later, I took another visit?
“The air is filled with the sense of impending change in Cuba,” says Dr. Stephen Auger from the Catholic University of America. He believes that all three popes felt in Cuba opportunities: “I Think all three of the Pontiff believed that we have entered this critical historical period where there may be important changes with regard to the Church.”
Francis has played a key role, acting behind the scenes negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba that led to the restoration of diplomatic relations. And all this despite the restrictions imposed by Cuba in the Catholic Church.
“Of course, ironically, the Church then was subjected to repression, and I think exposed them until now. However, I’m not surprised that the Church is moving forward,” continues Dr. Stephen Auger.
Now Francis comes out from behind the scenes on the main stage. Will he use this platform for campaigning for a new change? Many are hoping that history will repeat itself, just as Pope John Paul II told the people in Communist Poland: “fear Not.”
“All the police state, terrorizing its population, kept at the fear of people. When the Christians of Poland was not afraid to challenge the regime, was made a huge step, and it became possible after the Pope’s visit. Hopefully, Francis will have the same effect on Cuba,” — says Mike Gonzalez from the Heritage Foundation.
Pope Francis is a staunch anti-Communist, and he has called on the US to lift trade embargo against Cuba. However, he could change the situation, putting pressure on the Cuban government in another key area: “I can’t imagine how he can not touch the topic of human rights,” says Stephen Auger.
Just last Friday, the Cuban government announced the release of 3.5 thousand prisoners, including political detainees. But that message did not mention a record wave of arrests of dissidents, the Castro regime carried out this summer. Only in August, they were seven hundred. One group, “Women in white” protest usually on the way to mass.
“It would be unconscionable of him not to meet with dissidents, which also hold demonstrations on the way to Church,” — commented on these events Mike Gonzalez.
In addition, the Pope’s visit can revive a local Catholic Church. By her own estimates, regularly attends mass at least 5% of Cubans. Evangelical Christians are also on the alert. In the country there is a huge interest for Pope’s visit. Believers hope that he will open doors for evangelism and bring the churches more freedom.
But evangelicals also fear the confusion that can occur with the popularization of the Catholic Church. This is due to the existence in Cuba is santería, a blend of African beliefs and Catholic doctrines.
“African religions hide behind the Catholic Church,” says Pastor Julio.
“If the truth is something to abuse, it ceases to be true,” said the Pastor Nestor.
Fidel and Raul Castro were both pupils of the Jesuits, before he turned to communism. However, in recent years their position relative to the Church relented. After meeting with the Pope at the Vatican in may, Raul Castro told reporters that he was thinking about returning to the Church, stressing he was not joking. To many this may seem offensive, but others — very encouraging.
“I think this Pope is in a sense the conscience of living in the human world. Speaking in this role, it seems to me, many are able to stir up. I think he could do in Cuba. If it fails, then I don’t even know who else,” says Stephen Auger.
Will the Pope’s visit to any transformations in many respects depends on the Cuban people and their commitment to spiritual and political revival.