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Papal Trip to Cuba: Prospects & Concerns

Javier González
On September 19, Pope Francis shall arrive at the prison island of Cuba for a three-day visit. Cuban dictator Raúl Castro, as he had already done on the eve of the visit by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, was quick to announce an amnesty for thousands of prisoners; among them one could not find even one political prisoner.

political prisoners cuba

Not one political prisoner to be released for papal visit

Close advisors to Pope Francis have also requested a meeting between the Pope and the previous dictator Fidel Castro, according to a report released by the Italian agency Vatican Insider, which to date has not been denied. Opposition groups that have requested a special meeting with Pope Francis also have not yet received a reply.

It is quite understandable that the announcement of the papal visit to a country which is bound by the shackles of a Communist regime that has been particularly repressive and cruel and which has just completed a period of 56 seemingly endless years in power, may awaken a feeling of hope in some people, hope that this visit may help to bring freedom to 11 million Cubans.

There were, however, similar expectations in 1998 when Pope John Paul II made a visit to Cuba, and also in 2012 before the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. In both cases, the regime knew how to stage a publicity coup based on the visits, and these visits ended by helping to keep the Communist bigwigs in power.

The confirmation of this fact has raised among many defenders of freedom who have taken a stand against socialism a general feeling of disappointment and frustration, which has lingered to this day.

papal visit billboard

Using the papal visit to prop up the communist regime...

papal visit billboard cuba
At this moment, many Cubans on the island and also abroad are naturally concerned that a similar situation could repeat itself with this third visit of a Pope to Cuba. This concern is compounded by the fact that for decades the Cuban clergy have been responsible for maintaining a regrettable and persistent policy of collaboration with the wolves that oppress the flock.

Further, with the perspective of the Papal visit, the regime has announced some merely 'cosmetic' changes that impress certain naive people who are unaware of the true reality in Cuba, but that does not, in any way, change the oppressive nature of the regime.

In terms of religious freedom, the regime proudly announces, as the Catholic clergy applauds, the fact that the Cuban constitution “recognizes, respects and ensures religious freedom” (Art. 55). However, very little is said about the existence of Article 62 of the same Constitution, which makes a point of removing the very benefit that was apparently granted.

The true effect of this Article 62 is to warn that “none of the constitutional freedoms” may be exercised “either against the existence or the purposes of the Socialist State, nor against the decision taken by the Cuban people (sic) to construct Socialism and Communism.”

The article explicitly adds that “the violation of this principle is punishable,” a warning that is constantly put into practice. The regime will only tolerate a type of religious activity that has the effect of numbing consciences, a kind of religiosity that conceals the intrinsically perverse doctrine of Communism that frontally opposes commandments laid down in the Law of God.

This concern of Cubans, both on and off the island, over the coming Papal Visit, is exacerbated by actions like the recent mediation of the Pope in establishing diplomatic relations between the United States Government and the Cuban regime, with an enormous advantage for this regime.

obama pope francis deal cuba

Favoring Communism, the Pope brokered the US-Cuba thaw in relations

Likewise Cubans were disturbed by the warm welcome Raúl Castro received in Rome in May 2015, which led former Cuban political prisoner Armando Valladares to write:

“In one of the most significant symbolic moves of the Vatican's 'ostpolitik' favoring Cuban Communism, Pope Francis welcomed Cuban tyrant Raúl Castro and, in an ambience of mutual smiles and demonstrations of affection, the Pope shook his blood-stained hands and went so far as to ask the Communist leader to pray for him, This is a chilling and appalling scene that will indelibly mark, before God and History, the current pontificate” (cf.: Armando Valladares, “Francis, the Nuncio and the Tyrant”, May 12, 2015.

May Providence enlighten the Pontiff and open the eyes of the Cuban Church so that they may prevent this visit from being used by the current leaders of Cuban Communism. These are some respectful and sincere thoughts that we offer to our readers about Pope Francis' forthcoming trip to Cuba. We not only have the right, but also a duty of conscience, to make these statements in order to promote an authentic religious, civic and political freedom appeal for Cuba and for its people who have suffered so much.

Posted September 18, 2015

Javier González first posted this article
in Americas Alert on September 14, 2015


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