Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Giving courage and hope to
the Church and affirming the need for progress in the recognition of
fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion, because there is no progress
in a society that "excludes God." This
is Pope Benedict XVI's memory of those "unforgettable days of joy and
hope" in Mexico and Cuba during
his March 23 to 29 visit. The Pope reflected
on the journey during his general audience today before 20 thousand people in
St. Peter's Square. "With
it I wanted to embrace the entire continent, inviting everyone to live together
in hope and a concrete commitment to walk together toward a better
The audience was also the occasion for an appeal from the Pope against the spread of anti-personnel mines which "keep people from, "Walk[ing] together on paths of life without fearing the dangers of destruction and death."
Today's audience was also held on the eve of the beginning of the Paschal Triduum, which, said Benedict XVI, recalls " passage and the hour of 'love which allows Jesus to pass through the abyss of evil and death, and sees him emerge into the new "space" of the Resurrection. " "Let us allow ourselves be transformed- his call - so that we may be truly realized in the Resurrection."
Other days, those in Mexico and Cuba, "will remain etched in the heart" of the Pope, who retraced the steps of the journey, from Leon, "the geographical center of Mexico," with the "large crowd" for a "memorable welcome" . "I could understand the faith and the warmth of priests and lay faithful." There, "I recalled the need for recognition of fundamental human rights among them religious freedom, assuring my closeness to those who suffer from social ills, old and new conflicts, corruption and violence." The "endless enthusiastic line of people along the streets," testified that "hope is still burning in their hearts despite the violence which I did not fail to deplore, with my heartfelt thoughts for the victims, some of whom I was able to personally comfort".
In Leon Benedict XVI said he recalled that "The disciples of the Lord must help nurture the joy of being Christian and the joy of belonging to his Church. The energy to serve Christ in difficult situations and suffering is also born from this joy".
Finally, meeting, the bishops of Mexico and the representatives of the other Bishops of the Continent, "I expressed my closeness to their commitment to meeting the various challenges and difficulties, and my gratitude for those who sow the seeds of the Gospel in situations that are complex and often not without limitations. I encouraged them to be zealous pastors and reliable guides, arousing sincere communion and heartfelt support to the teaching of the Church everywhere. "
In Cuba, the first purpose of the visit was "to support the mission of the Catholic Church, committed to proclaiming the Gospel with joy, despite the poverty of resources and the difficulties still to be overcome so that religion can carry out its spiritual service and its part in formation in the public square of society. This I wanted to emphasize coming to Santiago de Cuba, the island's second city, not failing to highlight the good relations that exist between the State and the Holy See, with the aim of serving the living and constructive presence of the local Church. I also ensured them that the Pope carries the concerns and aspirations of all Cubans in his heart, especially those who suffer from limitations of freedom".
The Mass celebrated in Santiago de Cuba for the fourth centenary of the
discovery image of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, the patroness of Cuba was
"a time of great spiritual intensity," with a great turnout, " a
sign of a Church that comes from situations that are far from easy, but with a
lively witness of charity and active presence in people's lives. Cuban
Catholics, along with the entire population, hope for a better future, I invited
them to give new vigor to their faith and to assist with the courage of
forgiveness and understanding, in building an open and renewed society where
there is more room for God, because when God is removed, the world becomes an
inhospitable place for humans".
In Havana, meeting with the bishops, the Pope spoke about " the challenges facing the Church in Cuba, in the knowledge that people look to it with growing confidence." And the day after the Mass celebrated in the capital "I reminded them all that Cuba and the world needed change, but this will only happen if everyone is open to the integral truth about man, which is essential for achieving freedom, and if everyone decides to sow the seeds of reconciliation and brotherhood around them, founding the their lives on Jesus Christ: He alone can dispel the darkness of error, helping to defeat the evil and all that oppresses us. I also wanted to reiterate that the Church does not demand privileges, but also to be able to proclaim and celebrate the faith publicly, bringing the Gospel message of hope and peace to every area of society. While appreciating the steps taken by the Cuban authorities so far in this direction, I stressed the need to continue on this path of ever greater religious freedom".
Upon leaving the island, finally, " I remembered that at the present
time the various components of Cuban society are called to a collaborative
effort of sincere and patient dialogue for the good of their nation ".
The appeal, finally, for today's International Day to raise awareness about the problem of landmines, " to the victims of which - said the Pope - I express my closeness, as also I am close to their families. I encourage everyone to be committed to freeing humanity from these terrible and devious weapons, which, as Blessed John Paul II said to mark the entry into force of the Convention for their elimination, keep people from, "Walk[ing] together on paths of life without fearing the dangers of destruction and death".