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    From John Paul II to Francis – Opening and Reconciliation, the Path Towards Change (II)

    From John Paul II to Francis: Opening and Reconciliation, the Path
    Towards Change (II) / Somos+, Carlos Hernandez
    Posted on August 19, 2015

    Somos+, 10 August 2105 — Between March 26th and 28th , 2012, His
    Holiness Benedict XVI, today Pope Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Church,
    conducted a very intensive visit to Cuba as a “Pilgrim of Charity”. In
    his farewell speech in a ceremonial hall at the José Martí International
    Airport in Havana he expressed:

    “The present hour claims in such an urgent way that in human, national
    and international coexistence, immovable positions and unilateral
    viewpoints, which tend to make understanding more difficult and
    collaborative effort ineffective, should be cast out. Possible
    discrepancies and difficulties have to be solved by looking tirelessly
    for what unites everyone, with patient and sincere dialogue, mutual
    understanding and a loyal willingness to listen, that accepts goals
    filled with new hope.”

    The words of the Holy Father, connected in the same line to the ones of
    his predecessor, re-evoke the patient and true dialogue, in order for
    reality to change and with it the life of the Cuban nation.

    As a result of this trip the commemoration of Good Friday as a holiday
    was legally stablished by the government.The Catholic Church also
    mediated for the release of almost all political prisoners convicted
    from the Black Spring, although this process had already begun months
    earlier when preparations for the Pope’s visit to Cuba were initiated,
    involving the unprecedented dialogue between the Church and General Raul
    Castro, after he assumed the presidency of the State Council of the

    Progress was also made on the construction of the Seminary of San Carlos
    and San Ambrosio in Havana, the first ever approved to be built after
    the dictatorship was installed in power. A process of returning
    properties previously expropriated from the Catholic Church and other
    religious confessions started as well. The Church was allowed to start
    training people on different issues like economics, business
    administration and many other aspects.

    If we value all these events with a pragmatic perspective, we can see
    how they have created different scenarios of dialogue and concessions
    from the government, in this case with the Catholic Church or through it.

    However it is true that it didn’t happen with the speed and depth
    desired and needed. The General and his subordinates know that they
    don’t have much time, they don’t have the messianic mysticism of the
    bearded commander and because of their age, the situation does not grant
    them much time to maneuver. Of course no change glimpsed by them would
    be for an opening towards the Rule of Law, democratic and inclusive we
    aspire to. But they had never before been in such a vulnerable position.

    At the same time some questions arise: Why has the dictator has not held
    a dialog with the opposition? Why did he do so with the Catholic Church
    and not the opposition? Is it realistic to expect an opening from the
    regime to democracy, dialogue and national reconciliation through
    peaceful means?

    First we must remember that for the communist hierarchy and its
    political-military machinery, the Catholic Church has always been
    considered a powerful adversary, part of the “counterrevolutionary
    worms” that had to be crushed, suppressed and exterminated.

    Then, by starting a dialogue with representatives of the Church, they
    have begun the dialogue with a section of the opposition. It’s true they
    have not spoken to political parties or social movements of the rest of
    civil society, or the exile.

    But it would be unwise and even little serious to ignore the church as
    an institution that brings together many Cubans and has never been
    aligned with the government, but rather repressed, silenced, exiled,
    slandered and discredited by Castro’s propaganda and all its
    institutional machinery.

    The Church’s social doctrine does not encourage violence and demands –
    in its coherent dialogue — a series of well-defined objectives that are
    supported by the hundreds of thousands of the Cuban Catholics it represents.

    The opposition, which grows tinged by different political parties or
    social movements, has no doctrine or alternative program that most
    people are familiar with or that a large majority of the people assume
    with full identity.

    Let’s recall the Varela project and also take that example. After the
    thousands of signatures submitted to the National Assembly, the emeritus
    tyrant called a referendum to further radicalize the constitution of the
    Republic, knowing that the sympathy that project had aroused in the
    population was real and although it was not a large percentage of the
    citizens who signed it, there were indeed millions who watched that
    project with total support. Unfortunately, the political circumstances
    at the time were not those of today.

    We must analyze whether the demands of opposition groups match the ones
    of the majority of Cuban citizens, if there is harmony between what the
    parties consider important and what people regard as important.

    Meanwhile, the General continues to dialogue with the “empire.”
    Embassies got opened, tourists come over, there is a galloping increase
    of commercial contracts, dollars get multiplied and gross domestic
    product grows. Many other changes will be introduced by the dictatorship.

    It is up to our intelligence and wisdom whether Cuba opens up to Cubans
    in peace with all its magnificent potential, or instead, we give them
    once again another chance without having to respond to popular
    discontent and to their discredit act against a Cuba for all Cubans. The
    dismantling of the regime and the reconstruction of the nation can only
    be achieved by non-violent means. That is the only field of operations
    for which they are not prepared.

    Another Catholic Pope, Francis, through whom the opening dialogue has
    been materialized with our new “fellows of the Turbulent North and no
    longer brutal” comes to Cuba. His message this time is as a “missionary
    of Mercy”. We’ll listen to the bishop of Rome speaking – in perfect
    Spanish — to the people about reconciliation, forgiveness, peaceful
    coexistence, and respect for the ideas of all…

    And I do not rule out a more bold statement considering his performance
    in previous visits to different countries since he began his
    pontificate. This is not about putting our hopes on the Pope, but the
    opportunity for the people to hear and comprehend what that message means.

    SOMOS+ (#WeAreMore) the citizens that every day long for a change.
    Blessed be the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

    Source: From John Paul II to Francis: Opening and Reconciliation, the
    Path Towards Change (II) / Somos+, Carlos Hernandez | Translating Cuba –