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?"

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