VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XV appealed to the Cuban government that it continue to grant more and more religious liberty for its citizens, while acknowledging that many positive steps have been taken in recent years.
The Pope said this today upon receiving the letters of credence of the nation’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Eduardo Delgado Bermudez. In the address he expressed the hope that “concrete signs of openness to the exercise of religious liberty will continue to multiply, as has been happening in recent years.”
Among these gestures he highlighted “the opportunity to celebrate Holy Mass in some prisons, the carrying out of religious processions, the repair and devolution of some churches and the construction of some religious houses, and the possibility to count on social security for priests and religious.”
In this connection, he pointed out the opportunity of coming to an agreement on relations between Cuba and the Holy See, which “defines suitably existing relations, never interrupted, between the Holy See and Cuba, and which guarantees the adequate development of the life and pastoral action of the Church in that nation.”
The Holy Father wished to highlight the social work that the Church is carrying out in Cuba, especially at this time of economic crisis, “such as the greater cooperation achieved with the authorities that has permitted the realization of important projects of aid and reconstruction, especially on the occasion of natural disasters.”
This incipient climate of collaboration “has made it possible for the Church to make her modest charitable contribution,” by undertaking “numerous initiatives of social aid that, though of reduced dimensions, reach many sick, elderly and handicapped people,” said Benedict XVI.
“I trust moreover that this climate will also favor her participation in the means of social communication and in carrying out complementary educational tasks, in keeping with her specific pastoral and spiritual mission,” he added.
The Holy Father wished to stress the importance of the forthcoming celebration, in 2012, of the 4th centenary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patron of Cuba.
“This beloved Marian advocate is a luminous symbol of the religiosity of the Cuban people and of the Christian roots of their culture,” he said, pointing out that the Church “is the depository of an extraordinary spiritual and moral patrimony which has contributed to forge the Cuban soul in a decisive way, giving it its own character and personality.”
Stressing the separation of Church and State, the Pontiff let it be understood that greater liberty in Christians’ activity would redound to the benefit of the country.
He said that “the principal service that the Church offers Cubans is the proclamation of Jesus Christ and his message of love, forgiveness and reconciliation in the truth. A people who follows this path of concord is a people with hope in a better future.”
Benedict XVI also pointed out that “all men and women, and especially young people, need today, as in any other age, to rediscover those moral, human and spiritual values, as for example respect for life from conception to its natural end, which make man’s life more worthy.”
In regard to the economic crisis, the Pope urgently requested “an economy that, built on solid ethical bases, places the person and his rights and his material and spiritual good, at the center of its interests.”
“In fact, the first capital that must be safeguarded and saved is man, the person in his integrity,” he added.
In this context, Benedict XVI acknowledged the importance of Cuba’s process of opening to the rest of the world, and especially “the signs of relaxation in its relations with its neighbor the United States,” which “would presage new opportunities for a mutually beneficial rapprochement, in full respect of the sovereignty and the right of the States and of their citizens.”
“Cuba, which continues to offer numerous countries its collaboration in vital areas such as literacy and health, thus fosters international cooperation and solidarity, without the latter being subordinate to interests other than aid itself to needy populations,” he said.
“It is to be hoped,” the Pontiff added, “that all of this might contribute to make a reality the appeal that my venerated predecessor, Pope John Paul II, launched in his historic trip to the Island: that Cuba open itself with all its magnificent possibilities to the world, and that the world open to Cuba.”