Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Benedict in Cuba - Day 3

The Day's Events


  • Pope calls for "Authentic" Freedom in Cuba, by Randal C. Archibold and Rachel Donadio. (New York Times 3/28/12). In the heart of Revolution Square in Cuba, with towering images of guerrilla heroes staring back at him, Pope Benedict XVI called Wednesday for “authentic freedom” in one of the world’s most authoritarian states.
  • Pope, at Mass, calls for full religious freedom in Cuba (Catholic News Service 3/28/12):
    Preaching at Mass in Havana's Revolution Square, location of the headquarters of Cuba's Communist Party, Pope Benedict XVI called for full religious freedom and greater respect for human rights on the island.

    "In Cuba steps have been taken to enable the church to carry out her essential mission of expressing the faith openly and publicly," the pope said during his homily March 28. "Nonetheless, this must continue forward."

    With President Raul Castro seated near the altar platform, the pope said, "I wish to encourage the country's government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole."

  • Pope asks Castro for more church freedom, Good Friday holiday, by Cindy Wooden (Catholic News Service 3/28/12). Pope Benedict XVI spent more than 40 minutes meeting privately with Cuban President Raul Castro and asked the Cuban leader for further freedoms for the Catholic Church in Cuba and attention to certain "humanitarian" situations.
  • Ladies in White arrested before pope's Havana Mass, by Francis X. Rocca. (Catholic News Service 3/28/12):
    A few hours before they planned to attend an outdoor Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, members of a Catholic dissident group were reportedly arrested by Cuban police.

    Alejandrina Garcia de la Rivas and Laura Maria Labrada Pollan, members of the Ladies in White -- "Damas de Blanco" -- were arrested before 6 a.m. March 28, said Blanca Reyes, a member of the organization who now lives Madrid, Spain.

In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano Pope Benedict XVI, right, meets with Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday March 28, 2012. Source: Associated Press

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Benedict in Cuba - Day 2

The Day's Events

La Habana

  • 12:00 - Arrival at the José Martí international airport
  • 17:30 - Courtesy visit to the President of the Council of State and to the Council of Ministers of the Republic at Palacio de la Revolución of La Habana
  • 19:15 - Meeting and dinner with the Cuban Bishops and the Papal Entourage in the Apostolic Nunciature
Pope Benedict XVI receives a floral gift by a nun during a visit at the sanctuary of the "Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre", in Santiago de Cuba March 27, 2012. Source: Reuters

Coverage and Commentary

  • Cuba identity is linked to devotion to "the Virgin of Charity" The chaplain to the national shrine of La Virgen de la Caridad near Santiago de Cuba explains what this devotion to the mother of Christ means to all Cubans. (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 3/28/12).
  • At Mass, pope recognizes Cubans' struggles, calls freedom a necessity, by Francis M. Rocca. (Catholic News Service 3/27/12)
    For 400 years, Cubans -- believers and nonbelievers alike -- have brought their sorrows and joys before the little statue of Mary, and even Cuba's communist rulers have claimed her as a cultural icon of the Cuban struggle for freedom and equality.

    When Pope Benedict visited the Virgin's shrine March 27, he joined the thousands of pilgrims marking the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue, and he echoed the prayers of many of them for a future marked by less poverty and greater freedom.

      In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano Pope Benedict XVI, center, accompanied by a group of bishops and cardinals, kneels in prayer before the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba's patron saint, in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. Source: Associated Press
  • Pope asks Our Lady of Charity to protect, guide, help suffering Cubans (Catholic News Service 3/27/11) Entrusting people to Mary's maternal care is a normal Catholic practice, but when Pope Benedict XVI prayed that Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre would wrap her golden mantle around the people of Cuba, it was particularly poignant.
  • Cheers, tears, prayer: Cuban-Americans join Cuban pilgrims in Santiago, by Tom Tracy (Catholic News Service 3/27/12).
Pope Benedict XVI and Cuban President Raul Castro (R) talk at the Revolution Palace in Havana, on March 27, 2012. Source: Getty
  • Ratzinger could help pull down the Caribbean wall, by Giacomo Galeazzi. (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 3/27/12):
    The U.S. State Department had warned the Vatican that the regime would use Benedict XVI’s visit to protest against the embargo. This immediately materialised upon the Pope’s arrival in Santiago. Raúl Castro welcomed Benedict XVI with 21 gun salutes and went on to attack Washington for “the 53 years of hostility against the Cuban revolution,” denouncing the fact that “the U.S.’s political and economic embargo oppresses the island.” Despite this, Castro said, “Cuba is changing; it is broadening its horizons and enjoys good relations with the Church.” Benedict XVI, however, showed no signs of being intimidated by Raúl Castro’s words and said what he had planned to say, talking about his visit as a mission to open Cuba up to the world and the world up to Cuba, on behalf of “the legitimate aspirations and wishes of all Cubans, wherever they may be.” In his appeal against the repression of religious and civil freedom, he also echoed the distressed and inflamed expectations of expats in Florida who have been thundering against the Holy See’s “weakness” towards Castro. During his first mass celebration on the island where God has been rejected for half a century and the Catholic Church persecuted and deprived of religious freedom, Benedict XVI again suggested “a real theology of liberation, based on testimony of the faith and the freedom of those who open up to God,” the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions’ news agency stated.
A man shouts slogans against communism and the dictatorship, before the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI arrives at Revolution Square in Santiago de Cuba, 915 km southeast of Havana on March 26, 2012 where the pontiff is to celebrate a mass. Source: Getty
  • As Pope Visits, Cuban Official Rules Out Political Reform, by Randal C. Archibold and Victoria Burnett. (The New York Times 3/27/12):
    Just after Pope Benedict XVI prayed at a revered shrine in Cuba on Tuesday, calling for the country to move forward “along the way of renewal and hope,” a top government minister made clear that the sweeping economic changes under way here would not be accompanied by political reforms that the pope has urged.

    The comments from the minister, Marino Murillo, the vice president of the Council of Ministers and the official overseeing the steps toward a freer market, amounted to a rebuttal of sorts to the pope, who in recent days has portrayed the political system here as unworkable and has laced his comments since arriving on Monday with calls for increased liberties.

  • Cuba dissidents concerned for mystery protester, by Andrea Rodriguez. (Associated Press, 3/27/12):
    Leading Cuban dissidents say they don't know the man who shouted anti-government slogans before Pope Benedict XVI's Mass in the eastern city of Santiago. Nor do they know his whereabouts a day after security agents removed him from the ceremony.

    But they say they are trying to find out, and worry he might face punishment. . . . The Cuban government did not respond to requests for comment.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Benedict in Cuba - Day 1

The Day's Events

14 years after Bl. John Paul II’s trip to Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass tonight on Cuban soil to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the discovery of the image of the “Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre”. Below find a clip of the Holy Father’s homily. Source: Salt + Light Television


  • Benedict Arrives in Cuba as 'Pilgrim of Charity', by Andrea Rodriguez and Nicole Winfield. (Associated Press, 3/26/12):
    The pontiff, who last week said Marxism "no longer responds to reality," gave a more gentle tweak to his hosts by expressing sympathy for all islanders, including prisoners.

    "I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be," he said. "Those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need."

Pope Benedict XVI (C), accompanied by Cuba's President Raul Castro (R), arrives at the Antonio Maceo International Airport in Santiago de Cuba March 26, 2012. Source: Reuters
People wait for Pope Benedict XVI to pass by as he is driven through Santiago de Cuba, 915 km southeast of Havana on March 26, 2012. Source: Getty Images
  • Raúl Castro Greets Pope Benedict at Start of Closely Watched Visit, by Rachel Donadio and Victoria Burnett. (New York Times 3/26/12):
    Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cuba on Monday, declaring himself a “pilgrim of charity” and urging the island to move toward greater openness, freedom and religious devotion.

    “I am convinced that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons,” the pope said.

    But although Cuba’s president, Raúl Castro, greeted Benedict at the airport here, where he said Cuba’s Constitution guaranteed freedom of religion, that broadening may take some time.

  • Pope Benedict's Cuba Visit Finds Support Among Miami's Exile Community , by Carlos Harrison. (Huffington Post 3/26/12)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Anticipating Pope Benedict's Arrival in Cuba

  • “Pope is bringing message of reconciliation and unity to Cuba”, Gerard O'Connell (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 3/25/12). Before Benedict XVI arrives in this Caribbean island, the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, says the Pope is bringing a message of reconciliation and unity for the whole country.
  • Cardinal Ortega on What Cuba Is Expecting From Benedict XVI (Zenit, 3/26/12). “Benedict XVI will find himself in a Cuba geared to living a new period, both at the social as well as the religious level. A period of openings that must be consolidated,” said Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of San Cristobal of Havana, in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano leading up to the trip, which began today.
  • Conflict and Confusion in Cuba, by Matthew Cullinan. (Catholic World Report 3/25/12):
    As Cuba prepares to receive Pope Benedict XVI on March 26, an increasing number of voices both on the island and abroad are complaining that the local church authorities are ignoring dissident groups and showing favoritism to a government that oppresses its own people. They also fear that the pontiff's visit could be exploited for the same purposes.

    In recent days, Lech Walesa, the former leader of Poland's Solidarity movement that toppled the communist regime in 1989, as well as Cuban-American congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have joined Cuban dissident groups to ask the pope to speak out against human rights abuses by the island's communist government during his upcoming trip.

A man walks near posters of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro (L) and Pope Benedict XVI in Havana March 26, 2012. Source: Reuters

  • Cuban dissidents attend Mass, hold protest, day before pope's arrival, by Cindy Wooden. (Catholic News Service 3/25/12):
    The eyes and the prayers of parishioners in Havana's St. Rita of Cascia Church were focused on the 19 catechumens who will be baptized at Easter. Only the large group of reporters was fixated on the 35 women dressed all in white sitting near the front.

    But after the Mass March 25, while parishioners visited with each other and with their pastor, the Ladies in White -- the "Damas de Blanco" -- recited the Hail Mary in the back of the church, and then began their weekly protest march along the main street outside. ...

  • "We want just one minute with pope Benedict during his visit to Cuba", by Gerard O'Connell. La Stampa "Vatican Insider" 3/21/12) - The leader of the Women in White movement in Cuba, Berta Soler, speaks about the situation in her country today and what they hope for from Pope Benedict’s visit on March 26-28.
  • In Cuba, Church’s Uneasy Balancing Act (New York Times 3/22/12):
    Benedict faces an odd paradox in what is the first visit by a pope since John Paul II’s in 1998. The church’s profile as an institution has risen sharply in recent years amid a burst of religious tolerance not seen since the 1959 revolution, with church leaders advocating for political and economic freedoms, negotiating the release of dozens of political prisoners in 2010 and counseling the government on plans for re-engineering the economy.

    At the same time, the church has struggled to attract more worshipers and faces criticism that it has grown too cozy with Cuba’s tight circle of decision makers.

    “The church quietly challenges the regime so they are not seen as a great threat by it,” said Christopher Sabitini, senior director of policy at the Council of the Americas.

Benedict in Mexico - Day 3

The Day's Events


  • The Holy Father in Mexico: Friday and Saturday: Pope Benedict XVI's visit is met with enthusiasm -- and attacks, by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman. (Catholic World Report 3/25/12):
    Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Mexico Friday to an enthusiastic welcome from crowds of Catholic faithful and government officials, evoking memories of Pope John Paul II's many successful trips to the world's largest Spanish-speaking country. However, the pontiff's journey is also becoming the occasion of a carefully-planned attack by a victim of the late Fr. Marcial Maciel, who accuses Benedict, John Paul, and other high officials of the Church of failing to respond adequately to the accusations against the sexually-abusive priest.
  • Pope greets Mexicans affected by notorious crimes, by David Agren. (Catholic News Service 3/25/12):
    Pope Benedict XVI greeted Mexicans who lost loved ones in some of the country's most notorious crimes, events that horrified Mexico and generated international headlines.

    They were among people the pope greeted privately March 24 following his public appearance in the city of Guanajuato. No details were provided, although the office of President Felipe Calderon issued a list of the eight attendees and crimes that affected them.

Pope Benedict XVI wears a traditional Mexican hat while driving through a crowd before officiating mass in Silao March 25, 2012. Source: Reuters
Pope Benedict XVI walks with his pastoral staff prior to the start of Sunday Mass in Bicentennial Park near Silao, Mexico, Sunday March 25, 2012. Source: Associated Press
  • Pope Benedict XVI Urges Mexico to Keep Faith Despite Drug Violence, Immigration (Fox News Latino 3/25/12):
    Pope Benedict XVI urged Mexicans to hold strong to the Catholic faith -- even amidst drug violence, poverty and the pains caused by mass immigration to the north -- at a Sunday Mass under the blazing sun.

    Many in the crowd said they were gratified by Benedict's recognition of their country's problems and said they felt reinvigorated in what they described as a daily struggle against criminality, corruption and economic hardship.

    Benedict delivered the message to an estimated 350,000 people in the shadow of the Christ the King monument, one of the most important symbols of Mexican Christianity, which recalls the 1920s Roman Catholic uprising against the anti-clerical laws that forbade public worship services such as the one Benedict celebrated.

  • Pope's unscheduled meeting with Mexican drug war victims (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 3/25/12):
    It was an unexpected meeting that was not in the Pope's official schedule but it will be remembered as one of the most significant moments of Benedict XVI's trip to Mexico. On the occasion of their meeting in Guanajuato, Mexican President Felipe Calderon arranged for the Pope to meet a group of eight family members of victims of organised crime. The Pope was thus able to express his support in the struggle against the main plague that is afflicting Mexico: the drug wars that are causing so much bloodshed (50 thousand deaths over the last five years).

    The attention given to this issue was highlighted by Ratzinger and Calderon's joint call, together with two Holy See and Mexican government delegations - gathered in Guanajuato – for a swift conclusion of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Both parties wished to speed along the proceedure because “the proliferation [of small arms and light weapons] is favouring illegal activities in organised crime. The treaty is also aimed at responsibly regulating the trade of arms “in order to prevent their possession by criminal groups.”

    The Pope's meeting with family members of drug war victims was intense and moving. Each one of them had a story to tell. Family members included ... [Read More]

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives in his Popemobile to lead a mass at the Parque del Bicentenario in Silao March 25, 2012. Source: Reuters
  • In Mexico, pope says social change will come with revival of faith, by Francis X Rocca. (Catholic News Service 3/26/12):
    Visiting Latin America for the second time in his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI offered a message of hope for social progress rooted in a revival of Catholic faith.

    The overriding message of the pope's public statements during his three days in Mexico, March 23-26, was that this troubled country, and the region in general, cannot solve their problems -- which include poverty, inequality, corruption and violence -- by following the prescriptions of secular ideologies.

    Instead, the pope said, peace and justice in this world require a divinely inspired change in the human heart.

Pope Benedict XVI leads a Vespers prayer at the Cathedral of Leon March 25, 2012.. Source: Reuters
  • Pope bids warm farewell to Mexico, heads to Cuba, by David Agren (Catholic News Service 3/26/12). Pope Benedict XVI bade Mexico a warm "adios," emphasizing he meant, "Remain with God," concluding a trip marked by outpourings of faith and affection from people in the world's second-most populous Catholic country.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Benedict in Mexico - Day 2

The Day's Events


  • In Pope’s Mexico Visit, the Pastoral Is Political, by Damien Cave. (New York Times 3/24/12):
    Pope Benedict XVI met with President Felipe Calderón on Saturday evening in what was described by the Vatican as a courtesy visit in the middle of a purely pastoral trip to Mexico and Cuba.

    But his comments beforehand, about violence in Mexico and communism in Cuba, made it clear that the pope did not intend to ignore his potential political influence.

This evening the Holy Father greeted the Children gathered in Peace Square, Guanajuato. In an ecstatic atmosphere, the Holy Father’s speech was interrupted several times with loud cheers! -- Salt + Light Television


  • Mexico: Benedict XVI meets President Calderon (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 3/25/12). Topics at the centre of bilateral talks include: nuclear disarmament, climate change, international agreements to limit the use and distribution of arms.
  • In Mexico, tens of thousands gather before Pope Benedict's Mass (Kansas City Star 3/24/12):
    Singing, strumming guitars and trying to shield themselves from a searing sun, tens of thousands of Mexican Catholics came together Saturday nearly 24 hours ahead of an open-air Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.
  • Mexican faithful flock to Pope Benedict (CBS News 3/24/12):
    Many had said moments earlier that they could never love a pope as strongly as Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II. But the presence of a pope on Mexican soil touched a chord of overwhelming respect and adoration for the papacy itself, the personification for many of the Catholic Church, and God. Thousands found themselves taken aback by their own emotions.
Crowds waved yellow and white Vatican flags as the Popemobile arrived in the steep streets of the colonial city of Guanajuato from neighboring Leon, in highly Catholic, central Mexico, where the pope is staying for three nights. Source: Getty Images
  • Pope Will Bond With Mexico on First Trip, Vatican Says (New York Times 3/24/12):
    Benedict awoke to the pre-dawn serenade of two dozen youths from a Guadalajara church group who sang him a traditional folk song after getting as close as security would allow to the college in Leon where the pontiff is staying during his three-day visit to Mexico.

    "We sang with all our heart and all our force," said Maria Fernanda de Luna, a member of the group. "It gave us goose bumps to sing 'Las Mananitas' for him."

  • On the Pope’s Plane: Ladies Rule the Roost, by Greg Burke. (Fox News Latino, 3/24/12). Traveling on the Pope’s plane is sort of like the Boys on the Bus, but not exactly. By my count, some 17 of the 70 reporters sitting in the back of the Alitalia flight are women.
General view of Peace square in front of the basilica of Guanajuato in Guanajuato, Mexico on March 24, 2012, during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. Source: Getty Images
  • Mexican immigrants from Dallas area make trek for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit , by Alfredo Corchado, Mexican Bureau. (Dallas News 3/24/12):
    When President Felipe Calderón greeted Pope Benedict XVI, he did so on behalf of the millions of Mexicans, including those who had departed for the United States — immigrants, the president said, that “we profoundly miss.”

    He could have been talking about Tereso Ortiz, who traveled from Dallas, despite repeated travel warnings from U.S. authorities. Like millions, Ortiz watched on television as Benedict’s prayers included “Mexicans who live outside their homeland, but who have never forgotten, Mexicans who wish to see a nation grow in harmony and with an integral economic development.”

    “I won’t lie to you,” Ortiz said. “Those words moved me and brought tears to my eyes. That alone was worth the drive.”

  • Mexico abuse victims denounce Vatican as Pope Benedict XVI visits (Los Angeles Times 3/24/12). "Benedict has sat down with abuse victims in almost every country he has visited. But his spokesman said Mexican bishops did not request such an encounter here -- an omission that victims' advocates said was unconscionable."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Benedict in Mexico - Day 1

The Day's Events


  • The pope in Mexico and Cuba, by John Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter 3/22/11)
  • Pope gives new twist to pro-life rhetoric, by John Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter 3/26/11):
    Pro-lifers often cite a famous remark by St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei: “Have you ever bothered to think how absurd it is to leave one’s Catholicism aside on entering a university, or a professional association, or a scholarly meeting, or Congress, as if you were checking your hat at the door?”

    Pope Benedict XVI has echoed that position during his current trip to Mexico, which is his first to Spanish-speaking Latin America. Aboard the papal plane on Friday, he too took a swipe at those who try to drive a wedge between private and public ethics – pointedly calling it a form of “schizophrenia.”

    “One sees in Latin America, and also elsewhere, among many Catholics a certain schizophrenia between individual and public morality,” Benedict said.

Coverage - Papal Press Conference

  • Press Conference en Route to Mexico: Coherence, Religious Liberty - Pope Gives Overview of Challenges, Expectations (Zenit 3/23/12):
    L’Osservatore Romano reported that, as usual, the press conference took place at the beginning of the trip, with 72 representatives of the international press.

    The journalists’ questions referred to Mexico’s difficult situation, scourged by the destructive violence of drug trafficking, the role of the Church in the continent amid social contrasts, and debates on the legacy of “liberation theology,” the question of human rights in Cuba with reflections on the enduring precariousness of international balances with reference to the Caribbean Island, and the numerous challenges that appear on the horizon of the Church in Latin America, committed to the continental mission which began after the conference of Aparecida.

  • "The Church is not a political party but a moral entity which sides with freedom" (Vatican Information Service 3/24/12).
  • Pope calls for patience in fight to bring freedom to communist Cuba, by Francis X Rocca. (Catholic News Service 3/23/12):
    En route to Latin America for his second papal visit to the region, Pope Benedict XVI called for patience with the Catholic Church's effort to promote freedom in communist Cuba, and criticized Catholics who participate in illegal drug trade or who ignore their moral responsibilities to seek social justice.
  • Pope says communism has failed in Cuba, urges change (Reuters 3/23/12):
    Pope Benedict said on Friday that communism had failed in Cuba and offered the Church's help in creating a new economic model, drawing a reserved response from the Cuban government ahead of his visit to the island next week.

    Speaking on the plane taking him from Rome for a six-day trip to Mexico and Cuba, the Roman Catholic leader told reporters: "Today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality."

Pope Benedict XVI answers to reporters' questions during a news conference aboard his flight to Mexico March 23, 2012. Source: Reuters

Coverage - Arrival

Pope Benedict XVI greets an impaired child upon his arrival at Silao's international airport in Guanajuato, Mexico, on March 23, 2012 Source: Getty Images

Additional News

  • Giving sombreros to popes a tradition for family of Mexican milliners, by David Agren. (Catholic News Service 3/23/12). The milliners of Sombreros Salazar in this deeply Catholic town 140 miles northeast of Guadalajara have the habit of making oversized, charro hats for the pope.
  • Pope uses cane at airport at start of trip (Associated Press 3/23/12):
    Benedict, who turns 85 next month, leaned on a black cane with his right hand as he walked steadily for about 100 meters (yards) to the foot of the Alitalia plane from the helicopter which flew him from the Vatican to Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport Friday morning.

    Papal aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the pope started using the cane about two months ago in private because it makes him feel more secure, and not for any medical problem.

  • Cardinal Turkson: Praying for conversions and the touching of hearts in Mexico and Cuba Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, expresses his hopes for Pope Benedict’s apostolic journey to Mexico and Cuba [Interview with Vatican Radio].
  • Pope Benedict XVI sends telegrams from plane (Vatican Radio, 3/23/12). Pope Benedict sent telegrams to the heads of state of the countries he was scheduled to fly over as he made his way to Mexico, the first leg of his Latin American trip.
  • Mexico spends millions to greet pope, by Rafael Romo. (CNN 3/23/12). It has been a project of celestial proportions, but it's finally ready. Construction workers have labored nonstop for months -- Their mission? To build an altar worthy of a pope and an outdoor venue that can accommodate as many as 700,000 people.
  • Anonymous Hackers Target Pope in Mexico (Fox News Latino 3/23/12):
    The infamous Anonymous hacker group is not happy about Pope Benedict XVI's arrival in Mexico on Friday.

    The group crashed at least two of the websites in Mexico on the eve of the Pope's visit on Thursday, claiming the papal visit is a political move to support the conservative National Action party.

  • Pope in Latin America in shadow of John Paul, by Philip Puella (Reuters, 3/22/12). A ghost will be following Pope Benedict at every step of his trip to Mexico and Cuba -- that of his predecessor.
  • Protestants on the rise as pope visits Mexico (Reuters 3/21/12). "When Pope Benedict visits the city of Leon in Mexico's Catholic heartland this weekend, the growing strength of Protestant groups will be on view just hundreds of meters from where he will meet with bishops and the Catholic faithful."
  • Pope's Mexico Visit Clouded by Allegation that Vatican Knew of Abuse In Mexico (Fox News Latini 3/21/12):
    The same week that Pope Benedict XVI is set to arrive in Mexico, a new book details internal Vatican documents showing the Holy See knew decades ago of allegations that the Mexican founder of the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order was a drug addict and pedophile.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pope Benedict in Mexico and Cuba - News Roundup

General Mexico Cuba
  • Few priests, few seminarians, but enthusiasm for Cuban church's future, by Patricia Zapor. (Catholic News Service 3/22/12).
  • The cry of the poor: Pope likely to repeat criticism of Cuba embargo, by Cindy Wooden. (Catholic News Service 3/21/12):
    The Catholic Church's position on the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba is "no mystery," the Vatican spokesman said, and there's a good chance Pope Benedict XVI will publicly criticize the embargo when he visits Cuba.

    At the same time, Pope Benedict also will call for greater freedoms -- particularly religious freedom -- and respect for other human rights during his stay in Cuba March 26-28.

  • "Pope's visit will help democracy in Cuba", by Andrea Tornielli. (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 3/21/12). Interview with the Vatican Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone.
  • Cuba: Dissidents arrested (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 3/19/12):
    The “Ladies in White”movement, which has been awarded the Sakharov prize for peace, is asking for the release of political prisoners, who include partners and spouses. Usually the activists, mainly women, attend Sunday mass together and then demonstrate to ask for the release of the prisoners. The dissidents have multiplied their initiatives in Havana in view of the Pope’s imminent visit, scheduled between 26 and 28 March.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pope Benedict, Fidel Castro and the Suffering Church in Cuba (A Roundup)

  • Maria Anastasia O'Grady on The Pope's Cuba Gamble (Wall Street Journal 3/18/12):
    With only a week to go until Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to make the second papal visit to Cuba in 14 years, joyful anticipation ought to be buoying the island's Christians. But for those brave soldiers of Christ who have stood up against political repression, the prevailing mood is deep frustration.

    For 53 years, Cuba's totalitarian regime has made life hell for the population. But Castro also has spared no expense in running a clever international propaganda campaign. Regime survival has depended on East German-style repression covered over by a smiley face for international consumption. It has worked, and Cuban human-rights defenders have suffered their indignities with little moral support from the outside world.

    Cuban dissidents had hoped the pope's visit would help them expose the twisted jailors who run the island prison. So what are we to make of the fact that the pontiff will not be meeting with any of the island's Christian human-rights advocates?

  • The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI will be available should Fidel Castro ask to meet with the pontiff -- that's the word from Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who said that if Castro "wants to, the pope will be available." (The Miami Herald 3/16/12).

  • Seeking pope's help, Cuban dissidents occupy church, by Jeff Franks (Reuters, 3/14/12):
    Cuban dissidents occupied a Roman Catholic church in Havana on Wednesday in what a Church spokesman said was part of a broader orchestrated action to get Pope Benedict to press for change when he visits later this month.
  • How the Catholic Church Is Preparing for a Post-Castro Cuba: Religion and Rebuilding on the Island, by Victor Gaetan. (Foreign Affairs 2/27/12)

  • Maria Mendoza (ECHOcuba) provides a brief history of The Suffering Church in Cuba:
    On the eve of the revolution, neither the Catholic Church nor the Protestant churches were a dominant force in Cuban Society. Nonetheless, in modern day trajectory, the Cuban government holds strict control of all church activities and repression of religious freedom. By law, discrimination against Christians is illegal, yet discrimination and harassment continues as growing churches are often perceived as a threat to regime stability. ...
  • Cuba's Conscience: Oscar Biscet in his own words, by Jordan Allott. (Catholic World Report 3/12/12):
    On March 11, 2011 Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet was released from a maximum-security prison outside Havana. The release of Dr. Biscet, who had spent all but 36 days of the past 11 years in a Cuban prison cell, was negotiated with the help of the Catholic Church and the government of Spain. Dr. Biscet has been called the number-one enemy of the Castro brothers for his non-violent opposition to the Cuban government’s human rights violations and its systematic use of forced abortion. In 2007, Dr. Biscet received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the United States, and he is a finalist for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Because the Cuban government allows its citizens only very limited use of the Internet and other technologies, this interview with CWR was conducted over several weeks and has been translated from Spanish into English.

  • Communiqué by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 3/7/12):
    This visit fullfills a desire that for long time have lived in the hearts of the catholics and many Cubans who identify with or feel part of the Catholic Church.

    This has been also a desire of the Pope, who, despite the limits imposed by age and his great responsibility within the Church and the world, has decided to accompany and celebrate with Cubans the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of Our Lady of Charity in our homeland.

    The Holy Father will visit us in his condition of Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church, descendant of Saint Peter the successor of the Apostle Peter, to whom Jesus entrusted the task both of strengthening the faith of his brothers and of serving as a sign of the unity of the Church in the world.

  • Will Castro convert to Catholicism?, by Marc Thiessen. (The American: "The Enterprise Blog" 2/27/12):
    While it has gotten little attention here, the news media in Italy is abuzz with rumors that Fidel Castro will convert to Catholicism during Pope Benedict’s upcoming visit to Cuba. ... If this actually happens, it would be nothing short of a miracle. Rarely does someone who has cooperated with evil so deeply and for so long achieve true repentance. Castro certainly has a great deal to confess.
    (To which National Review's Jonah Goldberg appends -- if he does, the Pope should demand public penance "Like Henry in the Snows of Cannosa") and the Miami NewTimes' Tim Elfrink points out, Fidel's Miami-based daughter, Alina Fernandez, now denies saying any such thing and notes she hasn't spoken to her father since fleeing the island in 1993. :
    "I've been out of Cuba for 17 years," she says. "How do I know what Fidel is thinking about God?"

Benedict in Mexico and Cuba - News Roundup

General Mexico


  • Cuba offers paid time off for workers to see pope (Associated Press 3/17/12)
  • The deadly diplomat: Pope gifts Cuba his favourite crocodile ahead of visit, by Nick Pisa (Daily Mail 3/16/12):
    Animal lover Pope Benedict XVI has sent a special gift to the people of Cuba ahead of his visit there later this month - one of their missing crocodiles.

    The rare 60cm creature was seized by wildlife experts in Italy after it was smuggled out of the Communist island by a tourist and was being kept in a plastic bath in his kitchen.

    Benedictus, as the crocodile was christened, was then presented to cat-lover Pope Benedict - who decided it would be an ideal gift for Cuba ahead of his three-day trip.

  • Ahead of pope’s trip, the Vatican says U.S. Cuba embargo is useless, by Philip Pullella (Reuters' "Faithworld" 3/16/12)
  • Pope Might Recognize Cuban Priest's Heroic Virtue During Trip (Zenit 3/14/12):
    Father Felix Varela, a Cuban priest and patriot has been recognized as fulfilling the conditions for receiving the title "venerable" and there's a possibility Benedict XVI will bestow the honor while he visit Cuba from March 26 to 29.
  • Cuba: Is it time for faith after Fidel?, by Giacomo Galeazzi (La Stampa "Vatican Insider" 3/12/12):
    Jesus after Fidel. As it awaits the fruits of Benedict XVI’s visit to the island, the Cuban Episcopate (led by papal diplomats) is busy preparing for the scenario of a “post-Castro” Cuba, with programme based on “faith and reconstruction.” The Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Substitute for General Affairs to the Secretary of State, is personally supervising diplomatic and pastoral work being carried out on the Caribbean island.

  • Cuban-born bishop leads US Catholics on pilgrimage to see pope , by Tom Tracy. (Catholic News Service, 3/7/12)>
  • Santeria vs The Pope, by Marco Tosatti, Rome (La Stampa "Vatican Insider" 3/6/12):
    Leaders of the Santeria sect, a syncretic religion of African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholicism are not particularly hot on the idea of Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba, because as John Paul II said on the first ever papal visit made to the island, the Pope will not receive them. According to some, Santeria is the most widespread religious practice in Cuba.
  • Cuban Bishops Preparing Warm Papal Welcome, Propose Three Days of Prayer and Mission In a message to all Cubans, the bishops of Cuba invite them "to receive the Holy Father Benedict XVI with affection and enthusiasm as one who comes in the name of the Lord." (Zenit 3/1/12)
  • Cuban church has become more public in a rapidly changing culture, by Patricia Zapor (Catholic News Service 2/29/12):
    Since Pope John Paul II's visit in 1998, the church is more unified, more public, more likely to work with the government in accomplishing specific goals, more involved in providing assistance to the Cuban people, more comfortable in its place in society. Its bishops, priests and laypeople, while still wary of pushing official tolerance too far, are more confident in teaching the faith in a way they believe can help shape the future of all of Cuba.

    Above all, it is more hopeful.