Pope Benedict XVI‘s upcoming trip to Cuba will be the first from the head of the Catholic church in more than a decade. As the pontiff's arrival draws ever closer, bloggers continue to be vocal about their opinions, even as human rights violations reportedly continue.
Pedazos de la Isla dedicated this week (prior to the Pope's arrival, which is carded for this Monday, March 26) to republishing “declarations from numerous Cuban dissidents and activists” as they pertain to the visit:
The question they are being asked is: Regardless if one is in favor or against the visit of the Pope, it is certain that the eyes of the world will be upon Cuba during those three days. What message would you send to the world and to Pope Benedict XVI?
We are peaceful women and, here in Cuba, we really are in need of that message which the Holy Father will bring- that message of love, peace, faith, and freedom. The Cuban people need freedom. But the Pope is not going to bring freedom to Cuba, our freedom depends on us Cubans. Yet, it would be essential that the Pope know of the situation on the island, and we Ladies in White would like to have at least a minute with the Holy Father so that he knows that in this country there are political prisoners, that human rights are violated, and that there are women who are marginated and repressed by the Castro government simply because they try to assist mass on Sundays. And also, if I could hand the Pope a list with the names of all current political prisoners in Cuba, I would.
Interestingly, Soler's husband, dissident Angel Moya Acosta, was detained over the weekend, and repeated his call for the Pope to meet with members of the Cuban opposition. Pedazos de la Isla posted this entry to share Moya's perspective, explaining:
Moya Acosta took advantage of the situation and communicated to this blog that he maintains his position regarding Pope Benedict’s visit to the island in just a few days: ‘Pope Benedict XVI is not the liberator of Cuba. The freedom of Cuba is the responsibility and right of Cubans [in the island] and in exile. We Cubans have to be protagonists of our own story’. However, Moya declares that ‘since Benedict will arrive to a country where the peaceful opposition is being violently repressed and harassed, he should dedicate at least a minute to the Ladies in White to listen to their testimonies and so that they can update him on the actual situation on the island’.
Angel Moya reiterated that the visit of Pope Benedict on March 26th until the 28th will be manipulated by the Cuban regime and that whether he does or does not meet with dissidents depends of Cardinal Jaime Ortega, ‘the maximum religious authority of Cuba.
On that last point, babalu responded with a link to a story about Czech Bishop Vaclav Maly, who has written a letter to Cuban President Raul Castro asking him to release political prisoners:
If Havana had a bishop like the one in Prague… one can only dream of the possibilities.
In another post, the blogger (tongue firmly in cheek) supplied a list of all the ways in which “the Castro regime has dispatched throughout the island its considerable resources to prepare for the papal visit and ensure the scheduled events take place without any embarrassing snags”:
Human rights activist Marta Beatriz Roque is currently under siege and trapped inside her home with Cuban political police surrounding the residence.
Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria, a peaceful human rights activist, was arbitrarily arrested by Cuban State Security outside his wife's place of employment in Holguin, Cuba.
More than one hundred pro democracy activists were arrested in the eastern Cuban province of Granma when they took to the streets in a peaceful protest.
Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White Laura Pollan, reports that her husband, former prisoner of conscience Angel Moya, is still missing since his arrest by Castro State Security last Sunday.
Karina Quintana Hernandez, a member of the Ladies in White, reports that she along with other members of the group were apprehended and deported from the capital of Havana back to their home towns by Castro State Security agents.
Meanwhile, Armando Chaguaceda, blogging at Havana Times, said that:
The ‘taking’ of church buildings and the preparations for the papal visit to Cuba have been in the news in recent days, and these occurrences have resulted in my having difficult exchanges with my Catholic friends.
In the case of the church occupations, these have nothing to do with people seeking sanctuary or refuge from state terrorism, as often occurred in Central America during the civil wars of the 1980s.
Instead, this is a desperate tactic designed to attract the attention of the leader of the Catholic Church and world public opinion toward the situation of the political opposition here on the island.
Personally, I think such actions miss the mark. On top of all this, these events have resulted in a negative balance for the Catholic Church, which is left indebted to the government for the force required to vacate the buildings.
It is worthwhile to recall that Catholicism isn’t ‘THE’ national culture or religion here…a great deal of our African-based religiosity and community anchoring is being systematically ignored and discriminated against.
In the meantime, the real issues continue to simmer — and get sorted out — among the elites (politicians and the military on the island, the island’s church and the Vatican, as well as exiled business people and politicians).
Yet for ordinary people like me, my family and my friends, we have little to hope for or expect.
Translating Cuba translated an opinion piece from Diario de Cuba, which made the point that “Cuba is not the same as in 1998 when John Paul II made the first papal visit in our history”; in another post, blogger Lilianne Ruz shared her reasons for not going to see the Pope.
Through the Eye of the Needle had the last word, though, on the Pope's upcoming “tour”:
Hearing a journalist talking on the shortwave radio about the upcoming Pope’s presence in Cuba, he referred to it using the word ‘tour’. This gave me much to think about, because the church has taken very good care to emphasize that the visit of Benedict XVI to our country is a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Charity of Cobre. So far so good, but what has bothered the general population, and many believers like me in particular, is the fact that the spokesman for his Holiness has publicly expressed a desire to meet with Fidel Castro.
If he is really coming as a pilgrim to the Virgin, I do not understand what he needs to meet with Fidel Castro, who is no longer the president of this country, and according to what I’ve understood, has been excommunicated by the Catholic Church itself. I understand that the Pope, as the head of the Vatican, would meet with Raul, as they are both heads of state, but why with Fidel and not with the Ladies in White?
If the church is apolitical, as is so much proclaimed, why give a mass for the health and quick recovery of the man who has plunged this people into the most cruel darkness, and they never called for any masses in the church for Zapata Tamayo or Laura Pollan?
I will see the Mass on television. Not because I consider myself a bad devotee. I am a Catholic at heart, but I’m not blind in my faith. I hate to be manipulated by anyone or anything. I believe in God, I am a devotee of Our Lady of Charity, but a few years ago I stopped going to church. But I think that this visit can leave a positive balance: it all depends now on His Holiness Benedict XVI and the public attitude afterwards.