Wondering Why 23 Cubans Didn't Return After World Youth Day

We Must Listen More, Says Priest

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MIAMI, Florida, OCT. 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Catholic Church in Cuba is reflecting on why 23 young Catholics who went to Toronto for World Youth Day did not return to their homeland.

«What happened?» Father Willy Pino of the Camaguey Diocese asked, in an article published in his diocesan bulletin and in the latest issue of the Archdiocese of Miami’s Spanish monthly La Voz Católica.

«We do not wish to come to the hasty conclusion that they stayed only for financial or family reasons, or because of pressures from Cuban residents abroad,» the priest said. «We wish to go deeper.»

ZENIT reported in July that 200 Cuban youths were headed to Toronto to meet the Pope. Among those, 23 stayed did not bother to go back.

«The Church is not going to regard these youths who decided to stay as bad Christians, bad Cubans, deserters or traitors,» Father Pino added. «We respect their decision. They continue to be for us much loved children, and we will always be very grateful for the dedicated work they carried out in our communities.»

«The Church does not condemn them, but neither does it congratulate them for their decision,» he observed. «And it lets them know that what they did, even when they thought that they had reasons to do so, is not what is done and cannot be applauded. They should have thought about many other things.»

«We, and those who guide young people in our country, must reflect on what happened. Is it because we are not giving our young people all that they really need and want? Do we not inspire them?» Father Pino added.

«Perhaps we have to ask forgiveness of these 23 young people for the times that they felt treated by their elders as ‘basic means,’ always obliged to be at their service, to comply with orders, to have to be ‘eternally grateful’ for all that was done for them,» the priest continued.

«On the personal level,» he added, «I have thought a lot about a phrase expressed among those who returned: ‘For the first time in my life I felt treated like a person.’ I think the veiled accusation contained in the phrase is also for me.»

«We must listen to young people, let them express their opinions freely, sit with them, appreciate their opinions. We must seek to ‘spend time’ with them,» the priest suggested.

«When John Paul II visited our homeland, he opened their heart during the Mass at Camaguey, and called them to ‘build a new society, where the most noble dreams are not frustrated and where you can be the protagonists of their history,'» Father Pino said. «The Cuban Church will not let herself be discouraged in her decision to bet on young people.»

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