The Pope blesses the future of Cuba and meets Fidel Castro
In his farewell address at the airport in Havana, Benedict XVI invites Cubans to overcome the "limitations" to the fundamental freedoms and the "restrictive economic measures" to make progress on the island. The urgency of the dialogue and the overcoming of "unmovable positions" and "one-sided points of view" to the bishops and the faithful he asks "enthusiasm" and "consistency" in evangelization. Fidel Castro delighted at the beatification of Mother Teresa and John Paul.

Havana (AsiaNews) - "Hasta siempre, Cuba, a land made beautiful by the maternal presence of Mary. May God bless your future": with these words of comfort and hope Benedict XVI yesterday bid farewell at 16.30 local time to the Cuban people and authorities after three-day visit to the island. A few hours beforehe held the long-awaited meeting with Fidel Castro at the nunciature Havana. The Leader Maximo, embrittled by the disease, expressed enthusiasm for the beatification of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II and spoke of some spiritual themes.

The reason behind Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba was a celebration of 400 years since the discovery of the statue of the Virgen del Cobre, but more profoundly, to push the government to take steps for greater freedom for the Church and society, and support Christians in their efforts of evangelisation and social involvement.

In his farewell address, the Pope hoped that his witness would "reinforce the enthusiasm and concern of the Cuban bishops, priests and religious; and" serve as a new impulse to all those who cooperate with perseverance and self-sacrifice in the work of evangelization, particularly the lay faithful. By intensifying their commitment to God at home and in the workplace, may they never tire of offering their responsible contribution for the good and the integral progress of their homeland. "

And in a hint that the U.S. embargo makes it difficult for the country's economy and lack of freedom that still dominates the island, Benedict XVI added: "May no one feel excluded from taking up this exciting task because of limitations of his or her basic freedoms, or excused by indolence or lack of material resources, a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people".

"Respect and promotion of freedom which is present in the heart of each person are essential in order to respond adequately to the fundamental demands of his or her dignity and, in this way, to build up a society in which all are indispensable actors in the future of their life, their family and their country".

He hopes that "all Cubans so that, from the hand of Christ, they might discover the true meaning of the desires and aspirations found in the human heart and gain the strength needed to build a fraternal society in which no one feels excluded.." He calls on Cuba and the world to overcome hardships and closures to affirm the dialogue as the only path to peace: "The present hour urgently demands that in personal, national and international co-existence we reject immovable positions and unilateral viewpoints which tend to make understanding more difficult and efforts at cooperation ineffective. Possible discrepancies and difficulties will be resolved by tirelessly seeking what unites everyone, with patient and sincere dialogue, and a willingness to listen and accept goals which will bring new hope.

In the morning, the pope celebrated mass at the Revolution Square, attended by over 300 thousand faithful. Back in nunciature, he received Fidel Castro. The visit was not in the Pope's initial program, but Castro himself had expressed the desire to spend "several minutes" with the pope. The director of the Vatican Press, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that the meeting, which lasted half an hour, was "very friendly".. "The pope spoke of his delight to be in Cuba and the cordiality with which he was received. Fidel said he had followed all the visit on TV." Fidel Castro also thanked Benedict XVI for two beatifications: that of Mother Teresa, Cuba's benefactor, for whom he had reverence and gratitude, and that of John Paul II, who came to Cuba in 1998. The two senior leaders, almost the same age, they even joked about their age: almost 85 the pope, almost 86 the 'Lider Maximo': "I am old but I can still do my duty," the pontiff said.

Mrs. Dalia, Fidel's wife, and two sons were also present who were then presented to the pontiff.

The dialogue also touched on philosophical and theological issues, not least because ', Fr. Lombardi as mentioned, "now the life of the commander is dedicated to thinking and writing." Fidel asked the Pope to explain the changes in the liturgy of the Church, different from those of the pre-Council, known by him as a young man.

The former Cuban president also highlighted "the difficulty of the times of today, with the science that is not able to respond to the needs of humanity today." And "the Pope has linked the issue with the absence of God, with no knowledge of God that is important to give freedom and responsibility."

Among other things, Fidel has also asked what a pope does Benedict XVI responded by explaining the value of his journey's to meet the diverse peoples and reinforce the unity of the universal Church.

During these three days the Pope did not encounter any dissident or representatives of movements such as the "Ladies in White", who are calling for the release of prisoners of conscience. Just a few days ahead of the visit, at least 60 people were arrested or placed under house arrest to keep them away from the church yesterday. According to human rights organizations, the phone of some people or groups had been blocked.

But in the days before the visit, the nuncio in Havana met the Ladies in white. And Fr. Lombardi pointed out that the pope, while he had not physically met dissidents, had their situation in mind. "It is true - he said - that the Pope has met Fidel Castro and not the dissidents, but their expectations were very present in the speeches he delivered and discussions that he had with the Cuban authorities." Benedict XVI, he reminded again, "spoke of prisoners and people who are distant from Cuba or in difficult situations."