Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI Calls for Freedom in Cuba

At New York Times, "Pope Calls for ‘Authentic Freedom’ in Cuba":

HAVANA — 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.

But reflecting an effort to stay in the good graces of his hosts and usher in even more religious freedom on the island, he also denounced the American economic embargo that Cuba has long blamed for most of its troubles.

And so Benedict, a critic of Marxism in general and totalitarian regimes in particular, walked the tightrope that spans the old and new Cuba, with a visit that lasted just over 48 hours and that harked back to the first papal trip here by his predecessor 14 years ago.

In his speeches and before boarding his plane for Rome, the pope pushed for more liberties, sometimes obliquely, while presenting the Roman Catholic Church as being in solidarity with the Cuban people. At the same time, he sought to assure his hosts that he was not explicitly taking sides in one of the most politically complex countries he has visited in his seven years as pope.

“The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom,” Benedict said in his homily at an outdoor Mass here, eliciting smiles from some in the crowd. “Many, however, prefer shortcuts, trying to avoid this task.”

He warned of “those who wrongly interpret this search for truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism. They close themselves up in ‘their truth’ and try to impose it on others.”

Later, Benedict met privately with Fidel Castro for what the Vatican called an “animated dialogue” in which they exchanged jokes about old age — Mr. Castro is 85, and the pope will turn 85 next month — and Mr. Castro asked for books and an explanation of what a pope does.

Afterward, Benedict reiterated the church’s longstanding opposition to the five-decade economic embargo, a rebuke the Cuban government had been waiting for.

While Cubans should use God’s strength in “building a society of broad vision, renewed and reconciled,” the pope said, they should not be hampered by limitations on “basic freedoms” or “a lack of material resources, a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people.”
And at Telegraph UK, "Pope Benedict XVI in Cuba."