Santiago de Cuba (AsiaNews) - " Easter is already approaching; let us determine to follow Jesus without fear or doubts on his journey to the Cross. May we accept with patience and faith whatever opposition or affliction may come, with the conviction that, in his Resurrection, he has crushed the power of evil which darkens everything, and has brought the dawn of a new world, the world of God, of light, of truth and happiness. " This is the invitation that Benedict XVI addressed to 200 thousand Cubans gathered in Antonio Maceo Square in Santiago de Cuba, in his first mass on the Caribbean island. The Mass began at 17.30 (local time) half an hour late, celebrating the 400 years since the discovery of the statue of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the patroness of the island. For the occasion, the little wooden sculpture, discovered in 1606 by three fishermen in the waters of Bahía de Nipe, was exhibited in the square.
The Cuban Church has only recently began enjoying a minimum of freedom (since the visit of John Paul II in 1998), the government appreciates its charitable work, but warns and suffocates any vaguely political pronouncement. Pressure and control, the arrest of dissidents is a fact of everyday life. Just after the beginning of Mass, in front of the stage, a man shouted in Spanish, "Down with Communism." The police immediately took him and carried him away, while some of the crowd tried to hit him.
The Pope's homily was strictly not political in tone; it traced the spiritual aspects of Christian faith, but also spoke of its human and social consequences, indicating that faith (omitted from the Marxist Cuban culture) is what makes society human. "In Christ - says the pontiff - God has truly come into the world, he has entered into our history, he has set his dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings that the world may truly become a home worthy of humanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation's true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the "Yes" to the love between God and humanity who responds to him. "
And again, speaking of the obedience of Mary he adds: " his obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation. God has created us as the fruit of his infinite love; hence, to live in accordance with his will is the way to encounter our genuine identity, the truth of our being, while apart from God we are alienated from ourselves and are hurled into the void. The obedience of faith is true liberty, authentic redemption, which allows us to unite ourselves to the love of Jesus in his determination to conform himself to the will of the Father".
In a country that for decades has been the laboratory of a Marxist-inspired liberation theology, where the Gospel values were used only as a starting point to enhance the class struggle, Benedict XVI proposes instead the spiritual root of every social change and highlights the primary mission of the Church, which is the testimony of Christ's presence: " Dear brothers and sisters, I know with what effort, boldness and self-sacrifice you work every day so that, in the concrete circumstances of your country, and at this moment in history, the Church will better present her true face as a place in which God draws near and encounters humanity. The Church, the living body of Christ, has the mission of prolonging on earth the salvific presence of God, of opening the world to something greater than itself, to the love and the light of God. It is worth the effort, dear brothers and sisters, to devote your entire life to Christ, to grow in his friendship each day and to feel called to proclaim the beauty and the goodness of his life to every person, to all our brothers and sisters. I encourage you in this task of sowing the word of God in the world and offering to everyone the true nourishment of the body of Christ.. "
The fruits of a communist, dictatorial political power, which can not regenerate (Cuba has been dominated for nearly 50 years by Fidel and since 2006 his brother Raul), beyond some success in education, there are the economic failures (only partly determined by the US embargo), social disintegration, sex tourism, corruption.
The Pope suggests another way for the development, centered on family and faith. He asks spouses to be witnesses of the faith, first to their children: " Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy." And everyone must remember the scope of their mission in society: " Dear brothers and sisters, before the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God. "
During the celebration, the Pope gifted a golden rose to the Virgen de la Caridad.