Cuban Bishops Ready Island for Papal Visit

Outline Evangelization Program for Jubilee Honoring Patron

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By Araceli Cantero Guibert

MIAMI, DEC. 9, 2011 ( In a message for Thursday’s feast of the Immaculate Conception, the bishops of Cuba laid out an evangelization plan for the upcoming jubilee in celebration of the island’s patron, and referred to Benedict XVI’s visit expected this spring.

The bishops outlined steps that they propose to their country’s Catholics for the Marian Jubilee Year, which will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity, patroness of Cuba. The year runs from Jan. 7, 2012, to Jan. 5, 2013.

The message has the same title as the slogan that marks preparations for the Jubilee: «To Jesus Through Mary; Charity Unites Us.»

«We summon everyone during Lent and Holy Week of 2012 not to be indifferent to their neighbor’s suffering and to act always with mercy,» the bishops wrote. «On the feast of the Virgin of Charity, we summon everyone to come close to God, to listen to his Word and to celebrate joyfully the feast of the Mother of all Cubans.»

The bishops’ message was made public four days before the Holy See is expected to announce the dates and program for Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba and Mexico.

The Cuban bishops refer to Benedict XVI’s visit, saying «that he has desired to visit our country as a ‘Pilgrim of Charity’ to accompany us and confirm the faith of the Cuban people» in the Jubilee Year.

According to sources in Cuba, it is almost certain that the Pope will visit the Shrine of El Cobre, in the province of Santiago de Cuba. Following the custom of pilgrims there, he might pray the rosary before the Virgin, offer her a flower and light a candle. Given that the Pope is keen on music, he might attend a cultural event in El Cobre.

In their message, the bishops express their desire that «the actions proposed for the Jubilee Year might renew and invigorate Christian hope at this present time» and they appeal «to all Cubans to live the Jubilee Year joyfully.»

The bishops noted the impact of the pilgrimage of the image of the Virgin of Charity (which began Aug. 8, 2010), known as the ‘Mambisa Virgin’, as she was called and venerated by Cubans who fought for Cuba’s liberty.

«We have witnessed and felt the people’s feelings, we have gathered their candles and flowers, dried their tears and shared their joy as the Virgin was arriving. We are certain that God wants to trace a path of spiritual renewal and new evangelization for all,» they said. «In the name of these two loves: Jesus Christ and Mary, his Holy Mother, we are able to go forward in the fraternity and prosperity that we Cubans of today and tomorrow deserve.»

The fruit of the Jubilee Year must be a «renewed encounter and reconciliation among all Cubans» and «in each one of us a change of mentality and attitude toward our neighbor.»

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