Havana (AsiaNews) - For several Cuba press - state-owned - have led an intense media campaign on Pope Francis’ visit. In an unusual turn of events television stations have been running interviews with the Archbishop of Havana and the Archbishop of Santiago; radio and TV broadcasts with lengthy reports on the figure of Jorge Mario Bergoglio; Church people and professional journalists expressing positive opinions, a fact in itself which is rather surprising, because the usual media slant on these issues has always been silence or tendentious information.
All of this information has permitted the average Cuban to discover a new reality. It is also true that since December 17 last, when the presidents of Cuba and the United States simultaneously announced the beginning of a process of detente to normalize relations between the two countries, the person of Pope Francis - the Bishop of Rome, Latin American, Argentine and Jesuit - acquired huge importance because of his role of mediator, recognized by both leaders.
Every day, the average Cuban has to jump through hoops just to buy food, and find enough money; the average Cuban has to queue for hours to solve basic problems; trawl through several pharmacies to buy the necessary medicines; wait for weeks for a medical specialist; endure the sweltering tropical heat for hours until the bus arrives; look forward to the "ayudita" or the little help that relatives working abroad send to him and which allow him to survive and perhaps even repair the roof of his home which is caving in.
For the average Cuban the Pope's visit may be celebrated with gratitude if it means an improvement of his life and if it helps to normalize relations with "North [the United States - ed]" bringing tangible benefits. It is in this context that he would like to see the evangelical liberation that Jesus proclaims.
Without any doubt, the event of the Cuban state visit is a strong stimulus to request once again the end to the blockade and embargo - censored by the Cuban bishops and popes who preceded Francis in these visits - the return of naval base territory and economic compensation for the effects of this embargo. In addition, the image of this visit, projected abroad and widely followed around the world, is an important cosmetic that can give some idea of a reality in transformation to democracy.
Pope Francis’ visit, with its spontaneous and unpredictable nature and its media preparation, is giving the Catholic Church a significant sociological meaning which it had been deprived of for decades. It is likely now that it will slowly gain space in the media and in certain sectors of education . The big challenge, however, for the Church as for the Cuban government, is the cancellation of an embargo on the country, namely the effective acquisition civic autonomy and, consequently, the formation of civil society and pluralism.
There are many ecclesial-political readings into this visit that can be made. There are many historic wounds still borne in the memory of the Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits, and therefore it is necessary to resort to the eyes of faith. Nothing happens by chance and, as St. Paul says: " for those who love God all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28) and St. Augustine, commenting on this passage, added: "even sin". It is in this perspective that the famous words of St. John Paul II take on an unusual strength: "Cuba open to the world ... and the world open to Cuba", an expression that I welcome, adding: "Cuba open up to Cuba."