Prays that they may build, through peace, dialogue and solidarity a society that is more and more just and fraternal.”
VATICAN CITY, Italy.- On his first public appearance since his stay in the hospital for surgery of the colon, Pope Francis has expressed his “closeness with the Cuban people”, and as well with the people of Germany, Belgium and Holland struck by torrential catastrophic rains.
The Pope also expressed his concern about the violent events in South Africa related to economic and financial difficulties due to the pandemic of Covid19.
“I am also close to the dear people of Cuba in these difficult times, in particular to those families suffering the most”, the Pope said on Sunday July 18.
I pray to the Lord that He may help them to build, a society that is more and more just and fraternal through peace, dialogue and solidarity.”
He has urged Cubans to “entrust themselves to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary of Charity of Cobre. She will accompany them on this journey”, the Pope said
Days after the July 11 manifestations all over Cuba with demands of change and freedom, a Catholic seminarian was still disappeared as well as many others that were imprisoned for being part of the numerous expressions of discontent in several cities.
The Catholic bishops in the Island issued a message, July 13, calling for ‘social dialogue´ and deploring the calls for confrontations on the part of government officials. Their message recognizes the right of Cuban citizens to peacefully manifest their dreams and their desire for a better Cuba.
The protests broke on July 11 and were repressed by internal police. Among those arrested and beaten was Fr. Castor José Alvarez Devesa, who has been released. He was trying to protect young demonstrators.
The demonstrations were the largest in decades and the bishops in their statement recognized ¨the deterioration of social and economic conditions”. They also manifested that “citizens should have “the right to express their needs and hopes”.
“We will not reach a favorable solution through imposition, or by making a call for confrontation, but only by listening mutually to each other and looking for accords,” the bishop´s statement read.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel called on his supporters to take to the streets in defense of the revolutionary government, that has been in charge of the island since 1959.
He also blamed the long U.S economic embargo for the protests and said that the White House was trying to “asphyxiate the island, in the hopes of creating social upheaval.”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken responded that the protests reflected the Cuban government’s failures to meet the needs of its people and stressed that it would be a “grievous mistake” for Cuba’s government to interpret the protests as the product of U.S.
Cuba’s economy has deteriorated evenmore during the pandemic, given the sharp decline in revenues from tourism and the recent monetary change that has made things even more difficult for the population.
The Church in Cuba has received messages of support from the Council of Latin-American Bishops ( (CELAM) and from other bishops.
Recently, the Adjunct Secretary of the Cuban Bishop´s Conference was interviewed by Vatican News. Fr. Ariel Suarez Jauregui said that the recent manifestations are a result of “ the insatisfaction that exists in Cuba because of the economic difficulties aggravated by Covid19 and external and internal factors that have made the life of Cubans more difficult”
He deplored that, “from the first moment the Cuban authorities did not make a call for dialogue among Cubans and for the rejection of violence as a way to solve the problems.” He noted the desire of many Cubans “to build a nation were all may contribute, even with our differences”.
Following this interview in Vatican News, the Holy Father commented on the situation in Cuba at the Sunday Angelus.
Days earlier, women religious in Cuba from the Daughters of Charity, had issued an open letter to Pope Francis addressing his silence.
After the days of public protests, the Cuban authorities announced they would temporarily remove the restrictions of 22 pound limits, on travelers from outside Cuba, so that they may bring more food, medicine and other essentials without having to pay. The measure will start Monday July 19 and will last until the end of the year.
In a recent interview by the Italian on line publication La Repubblica, the bishop of the Diocese of Holguin, Cuba, Emilio Aranguren Echeverría, who presides over the Catholic Bishops Conference of Cuba (CCOC) pointed out the growing discontent aggravated in recent months due to “external and internal measures”.
He commented that what happened last July 11 is “something totally extraordinary for Cuba, given the number of people that participated in the demonstrations in cities and villages with vulgar expressions and acts of violence on the part of the protesters as well as those citizens that together with the police, responded in a violent way to the manifestations”.
According to the interview published July 15 Bishop Aranguren reiterated, what the Cubans Bishops had said in their July 13 public message, that it is necessary to have in Cuba “ a channel where to express the needs, dissatisfaction, initiatives and possibilities”, not only looking for the causes but as well “uniting the potential of all those who are willing to achieve a common project that may unite the wills of all, for the benefit of the common good of the whole of society.”
Also on July 13, four Cuban American bishops serving in the US Church, made known a statement urging the international community to provide humanitarian aid “for the sake of the suffering people of Cuba, especially the sick and the poor,” they wrote in a joint statement..
It was signed by: Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia; Auxiliary Bishop Manuel A. Cruz of Newark, New Jersey; Bishop Felipe J. Estevez of St. Augustine, Florida; and retired Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn, New York.
You may read here the full interview , in Italian , with Bishop Aranguren
Additional related stories can be found at:
www.iglesiacubana.org , www.holguincatolico.org, Catholic News Service and Vatican News