Miami (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba could be greatly enhanced by a meeting between the Pope and political prisoners, or an embrace of the "Damas de Blanco" [Ladies in White] who every Sunday after leaving Church demonstrate on behalf of their relatives in prison who are continually beaten and detained. This is the hope expressed by Flavio Labrador, a doctor from Havana, who has lived for years in exile in Miami, where he earns his living as a teacher, a few hours ahead of the Pope’s arrival on the Argentine island, for a four-day visit. Labrador appreciates the small steps that are being taken by the regime since John Paul II’s visit to "open up to the world." But these steps are also the result of economic and political failures (perhaps along the embargo). Meanwhile, the Church and the Popes work to bring light even to the dark areas of Cubans lives, kept hidden by the regime.
For years the Cuban people has suffered and is still suffering; for years it has been deprived and is still being deprived its daily bread. Now the same people are waiting with renewed hope for Pope Francis.
The Pope knows, he knows that Cuba is suffering, that in Cuba there is no bread, that Cuba is hoping against hope, and he also knows that there is no freedom in Cuba.
This is why he is going there, and this is also why the last two Popes went there, because the evangelization of the people never ends, because there is Good News to bring. Above all he is going to be close to all, especially to those who suffer, who have no bread, no hope, no freedom: these are the blessed of the Gospel of Jesus. This choice is not an option among many, but a way of life, perhaps the only way to a real and coherent Christian life.
In the two previous papal visits to Cuba, I was able to experience the intensity of the preparation, and the intensity of every moment of the historic visit of John Paul II, the pilgrim pope (1998). The visit of Benedict XVI (2012) I experienced from my exile in the United State. I will also experience Pope Francis’ visit from my exile, along with a part of Cuba, that lives in exile with me.
The Archdiocese of Miami - and especially the city of Miami - has been preparing for this meeting. Archbishop Thomas Wenski, arrives in Cuba today with about 200 people, most of them Cubans and Cuban-Americans, as part of a pilgrimage on the occasion of the Pope's visit, trying to learn about the reality of Cuba today, imagine a new partnership , build new bridges.
Some of these pilgrims left Cuba when they were very small and in a sense will see Cuba for the first time. Other exiles will gather in various churches of the city of Miami, such as the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba, facing the bay of Miami, to watch the live broadcast from Havana, Holguin and Santiago, offered by different TV networks like CNN and many others, including a local television station in Miami.
Many of them, like AmericaTV Hispanic, will have a special coverage that will allow us to follow the pope's visit from his arrival in Havana today. Never before have Cuban exiles and the imprisoned Cuba been so close.
The regime in Havana had no other choice: against its will and nature, began to do what John Paul II asked of it since his descent from the plane that took him to Cuba in January 1998: that Cuba open to the world. The same regime that closed and deconsecrated churches; that expelled priests and religious; that condemned to forced labor many believers; who denied God, today has no choice, and no arguments, and while it is trying not to lose control and power, gives more freedom to the churches, allows the entry of religious personnel in Cuba, and other gestures of good will, looking to give a very different image from the reality.
Pope Francis knows this. John Paul II knew this very well. And that is why take they are taking advantage of small cracks in the wall to bring light into the hidden darkness. That's all they can do, and that is what the Church has been doing for years.
But this time I would really like to see them doing something more. I would like Pope Francis’ agenda to include a meeting with people who were persecuted for their beliefs, imprisoned, beaten and tortured for their thinking. I wish Pope Francis would embrace women who are beaten every Sunday leaving the church [the so-called "Ladies in White", mothers, sisters, wives who protest every Sunday for the release of their husbands or relatives]. I would love to see the Pope embraces the victims, even before going to greet their torturer.
This is what I want and what many want to be part of the Pope's visit to Cuba. Gestures like this would give more realism and meaning to visit Pope Francis’s visit and make it even more historic.