Havana (AsiaNews) - That the Church can continue to support and encourage the Cuban people in its hopes and concerns, with the freedom, the means and the space needed " and continues on a path of " an event which fills us with hope: the process of normalizing relations between two peoples following years of estrangement. It is a sign of the victory of the culture of encounter and dialogue ". These are the two wishes expressed by Pope Francis on his arrival in Havana, a few minutes before 4 pm local time, greeted by Raul Castro (pictured), President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers.
The Pope, in his address, recalled the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the Holy See, expressed "special consideration and respect" for Fidel Castro recalled the visits of John Paul II and Benedict XVI and one hundred years since the proclamation of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, the Patroness of Cuba. " Since that time she has accompanied the history of the Cuban people, sustaining the hope which preserves people’s dignity in the most difficult situations and championing the promotion of all that gives dignity to the human person".
But above all, Francis spoke of the "normalizing" of relations between Cuba and the United States, a fact which both President Obama and Raul Castro have repeatedly recognized, and again in a phone call yesterday, the role played by the Pope and the Holy See . "I encourage - says the Pope today - I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities as a proof of the high service which they are called to carry out on behalf of the peace and well-being of their peoples, of all America, and as an example of reconciliation for the entire world".
"Geographically - he adds - Geographically, Cuba is an archipelago, facing all directions, with an extraordinary value as a “key” between north and south, east and west. Its natural vocation is to be a point of encounter for all peoples to join in friendship, as José Martí dreamed, “regardless of the languages of isthmuses and the barriers of oceans” (La Conferencia Monetaria de las Repúblicas de América, in Obras escogidas II, La Habana, 1992, 505). Such was also the desire of Saint John Paul II, with his ardent appeal: “May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself to the world, and may the world open itself to Cuba” (Arrival Ceremony, 21 January 1998, 5)”.
There is another highlight in the Pope's speech: the demand for freedom for the Church, now tolerated, but for decades controlled and oppressed. "Today – he said after recalling the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations - we renew those bonds of cooperation and friendship, so that the Church can continue to support and encourage the Cuban people in its hopes and concerns, with the freedom, the means and the space needed to bring the proclamation of the Kingdom to the existential peripheries of society".
As if responding to his request, once the ceremonials were completed, the 18 kilometers that separate the airport from the nunciature, where the Pope will stay during his visit was lined with the people of Cuba who welcomed him with flags, song and greetings. A real celebration.