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April 2, 2012


Benedict XVI in Cuba: No Fatherland without Virtue

Margarita Mooney is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Faculty Fellow in the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina. She has written for Mere Comments, the blog for Touchstone Magazine, an outstanding commentary on the significance of the Pope’s visit last week to Cuba. Here is how her piece begins:

Perhaps by now you have seen some of the images of two ideological opposites, Pope Benedict XVI and Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who met for 30 minutes at the end of the Pope’s visit to Cuba in March. If you don’t know the history of Cuban communism or the main themes of Benedict’s writings on liberty, reason and truth, you may have missed the significance of his words to the Cuban people. For example, Benedict’s profound statement “No hay patria sin virtud (“there is no authentic fatherland without virtue”) seemed to be a play on the Cuban slogan “patria o muerte” (fatherland or death). As I’ve written before about the contradictions of Cuban communism, there is nothing virtuous in denying people liberty in order to achieve a real or supposed collective well being.

As a college student with great interest in development in Latin America, I made my first trip to Cuba (my mother’s homeland) in 1994. From 1994-2006, I traveled to Cuba 7 times. (In case you are wondering, although traveling to Cuba for tourism or business is prohibited, travel for Cuban-Americans like myself to the island is not prohibited by US law). During my many trips, I became close friends with a group of young Cubans in Santiago who are very active in the Catholic Church. This March, the Pope first visited Santiago. One friend in Santiago, an active Catholic and a member of the political group Christian Liberation Movement, who I will call Rodrigo, wrote to me,

I’m exhausted but seeing the Pope has renewed my spirit. I was at the Mass and at his pilgrimage to Our Lady of Charity. His words words of hope echoed with the heart of all Cubans. It’s hard to express what is is like to have him so near; you can see goodness and purity incarnate in a human being.

Watching Pope Benedict celebrate Mass on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012, I was struck by several themes in his homily, all themes of his extensive writings, but which take on particular significance in Cuba. Those themes are: trust in God, truth, reason, religious freedom, and reconciliation. The text of the homily can be read in Spanish or English on the Vatican’s website, and if you speak Spanish, I strongly encourage you to listen to the Vatican’s video recording of the homily to hear how Benedict emphasizes words like authentic liberty and the innate desire to search for truth.

As the Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina is wont to say, be sure to follow the links and read the whole thing. There is no substitute for informed reporting that comes from personal knowledge and contacts.

Note: for additional perspective on the Pope’s remarks delivered in Cuba, see this article as well, and the longer story in the Miami Herald, which is at this link.


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2 comments

And there’s nothing virtuous about imprisoning and executing your enemies as Fidel and Che did.  But they have “universal health care” so all is forgiven.  Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette you know.

[1] Posted by Bill2 on 4-2-2012 at 04:08 PM · [top]

RE: But they have “universal health care” so all is forgiven.  Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette you know.
On the matter of Cuba’s “universal health care”, George Orwell’s reply to the Stalinist is most appropriate: “Where’s the omelet?” wink

I do agree with the author that the Pope’s not-so-subtle messages of liberty were encouraging to Roman Catholics and dissidents in Cuba. I well remember how encouraged we were at Plano I in 2003 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s message of “unity in truth.” Nothing changed within TEC, but the Episcopal “dissidents” were encouraged. It is important to be encouraged as we fight the good fight against Communist oppression or apostasy in the Church.

Will the Pope’s visit change anything in Cuba? The government has already said that there will be no political change as a result of the Pope’s visit, so we shall see where “the baby steps” will lead.

Come to think of it, “you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet” sounds an awful lot like “the cost of discipleship” as an explanation for TEC’s shrinking numbers!

[2] Posted by Maria Lytle on 4-2-2012 at 09:33 PM · [top]

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