Cubans, Mexicans React to News They Might Welcome the Pope

Church Leaders Note Faithful Are Longing for Papal Visit

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MEXICO CITY, NOV. 11, 2011 ( The Churches in Cuba and in Mexico are excitedly considering the news that Benedict XVI might be a guest of honor this spring.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, announced Thursday that the Pope is considering a trip to Mexico and Cuba in early 2012.

The secretary-general of the Mexican bishops’ conference said the visit would respond to a great longing among the Mexican people and the Holy Father himself.

«We have not received an official communiqué yet confirming this visit, but it is the moment we can unite voices, the hearts of all Mexicans, to ask God that this very longed for desire of Mexico and of the Holy Father be fulfilled,» Auxiliary Bishop Víctor Rodríguez Gómez of Texcoco said.

He told Millennium Television that at the end of the month, the commission that prepares Benedict XVI’s international trips will visit, hopefully to confirm if the «conditions exist for the Holy Father to be able to be with us.»

«The possibilities are very good,» he said. «In reality we can only say that some conditions referring to his health, the climate, or an adequate place for us to be able to have his visit could prevent it.»

Mexico City has already been discarded as a possible venue due to altitude. Similarly, the sites John Paul II visited are not in high consideration. Auxiliary Bishop Rodríguez Gómez mentioned Monterrey, Veracruz, the Yucatan Peninsula, or the region of El Bajio, in the center of the country, but he said that it is very probable the visit will include «only one place.»

Last month, the leaders of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), met with the Pope in Rome to present their pastoral plan for the next four years.

Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, Mexico, CELAM president, said the group asked the Pope to visit a Spanish-speaking territory, in addition to Brazil. (The Holy Father already went to Brazil in 2007, and Rio de Janeiro will host the next World Youth Day.)

«The Holy Father cannot give an answer in these conversations because it is a question of study and discernment, but he smiled favorably, that I can say,» Archbishop Aguiar Retes reported. «He was not surprised by our request and our reasoning: It is important that he visit a Spanish-speaking country, either on the trip to Rio or on a previous occasion. He seems to smile at this; this I dare to affirm of the Pope’s reaction.»

Caribbean jubilation

Meanwhile in Cuba, the archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, said the Pope is giving priority to Cuba, and he said a papal visit would be a «great good» and «very special» for the island.

«It is excellent news and a great privilege to be able to count on the presence of His Holiness in the Jubilee Year on the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba,» the cardinal’s spokesman told the Efe agency.

Cardinal Ortega has spoken of a «new relationship» between the Church and the Cuban government.

The Church has been playing a key role in mediating the release of political prisoners, with more than 100 already being released.

And the cardinal said this better Church-state relationship is reflected in the pilgrimage of the image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, which is visiting some 300 sites on the island — something considered impossible since the 1959 revolution.

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