A Serene Benedict XVI Prepares Mexico-Cuba Trip

Vatican Official Participates in Send-off for «Pope’s Crocodile»

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By H. Sergio Mora

ROME, MARCH 15, 2012 (Zenit.org).- With just over a week left before Benedict XVI begins his March 23-29 apostolic journey to Cuba and Mexico, the Holy Father is preparing in serenity with prayer and study.

This was the report given Wednesday in Rome by the Substitute for General Affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, after a farewell ceremony for a small crocodile brought illegally to Italy from Cuba.

Coco, the Pope’s crocodile, as some of the media called it, will return to a zoo of the Caribbean Island before being released. The archbishop said that “the Pope gave importance to the crocodile’s presence in his audience, which says a lot, as it is a symbol of friendship between peoples,” and the “awakening of respect for nature.”

The reptile was taken to the Vatican on March 11, representing the 1,200 animals of Rome’s Bio-Park.

At the end, His Excellency joked: “One could almost say ‘blessed is he who returns to this magical and enchanting Island.’”

The Italian prelate pointed out that “the Vatican respects sacred Scripture which teaches that it is necessary to respect nature; hence the Church and the Holy See are committed to all the initiatives that protect nature.” And he added that he joined “the ceremony in the Bio-Park because it has a symbolic meaning, and because of my personal relationship with Cuba.”

Why is the Pope not going to the Mexican capital or Guadalupe? “Because John Paul II was in Mexico City and Guadalupe, so he is now going to Leon, where the monument of Christ the King is, which has its significance,” the prelate responded, to questions from the press.

He suggested that the problem of altitude for a person of a certain age could have influenced the decision, although Benedict XVI “wanted to go to a place where a Pope had never been.” In regard to the possibility of a meeting between Benedict XVI and Castro, Archbishop Becciu limited himself to say: “The Pope is open to everything and, in the future, we will know it.”

“It is a trip that in Mexico and Cuba might give the opportunity to accept the Pope’s message, which will be one of reconciliation, of commitment to the progress of the Church and of society itself, whether Mexican or Cuban, and a sign of love for both peoples,” continued the archbishop.

Is it a particularly difficult trip? “No, I would rather say a very tranquil one.» And, he added, on seeing the Pope recently “I found him very serene.”

For his part the ambassador of Cuba to the Vatican said that the event “was a beautiful expression of friendship and responsibility and a happy coincidence at a time when the Cuban people await the papal visit.”

He pointed out that in recent days two articles appeared in Gramma newspaper, the Cuban government’s official newspaper, one which explained what the Vatican is, and the other which welcomed Benedict XVI. This trip “is an important event, not only for Catholics but for all the Cuban people,” said the ambassador.

He estimated that the public’s participation will be more or less the same as it was during John Paul II’s visit, also because of the planned arrival of people from other provinces and localities such as Matanzas and Santa Clara.

He specified that although “a meeting between Benedict XVI and Castro has not been programmed, it’s not excluded either.”

In regard to visas to enter Cuba, without entering into recent controversies and referring specifically to the papal visit, the ambassador said that “at least four flights are being planned from Miami. Whereas this wasn’t possible in John Paul II’s trip because the United States didn’t allow it.”

On the Holy See’s historic position against the economic blockade of Cuba, the ambassador said that Havana did not ask for the Pope’s intervention on the matter, but that if he wished to do so, he could.

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