People walk by a balcony with the flags of USA and Cuba in Havana

ANSA - EPA/Rolando Pujol

Pope Will Call on Cubans to Overcome Hostilities

Spokesman for Cuban Bishops Speaks on Upcoming Papal Visit

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While it has been announced that Pope Francis will visit Cuba in September as a “missionary of mercy,” he will also ask Cubans to abandon their hostilities and bitterness. This was the statement made to AFP Agency by the spokesman of the Cuban Bishops Conference, Father Jose Felix Perez.

Fr. Perez, who also serves as Assistant Secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba and member of the team preparing the papal visit, confirmed that in his apostolic visit to the island, from Saturday, September 19 to Tuesday, September 22, Pope Francis will go as “Missionary of Mercy,” in keeping with the motto chosen by the Cuban Episcopal Conference.

Father Perez added that Francis will invite “all the Cuban people” to reverse “attitudes of hostility, indifference and contempt. All that has to do with rancor.” In its place there must be “benevolence” and “mercy.”

The priest pointed out that Francis “is very sensitive to the subject of poverty, to the subject of emigrants, to the subject of prisoners, so that in his message the Pope will make reference to them in some way.”

As indicated in the trip’s official program, Pope Francis will be received in Havana in the Palace of the Revolution by President Raul Castro, as was the case with Benedict XVI, when he visited Cuba in 2012.

And although then Benedict XVI received Fidel Castro in the Nunciature, accompanied by his consort Dalia Soto del Valle and their children, the spokesman said that he “cannot affirm or deny “ if a meeting between Francis and Fidel “ is planned.” He could only say that “it doesn’t appear in the program.”

Fidel Castro, who came to power in 1959, left the presidency for reasons of health in 2006. He was president of Cuba when he received Pope John Paul II in 1998.

“Being a Latin American Pope and, I believe, from his condition of Archbishop in Buenos Aires, he also followed carefully the activity of the Church in Cuba,” said Father Perez, who attributes the trip to Francis’ affection for Cuba, where he was during John Paul II’s visit.

The spokesman also recalled that on that occasion he was not seen among “the Bishops that were present in public life. He was at the Pope’s Mass and accompanied the Church during those days, but very discreetly. He did not even stay in the Priestly House with the other Bishops, but lived with persons who were friends.” All this makes clear that Francis knows very well the situation that the Cuban people live.

In the note, AFP indicates that Father Perez is the parish priest of Saint Rita’s church, where every Sunday the Ladies in White gather, who have their office in the new headquarters of the Episcopal Conference, the first building returned by the Communist government to the Church, of the more than 100 nationalized in 1961.

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