News Facts About Cuba

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Thousands Cheer As Pope Ask For A Cuba Free And Independent

(EWTNews 1/25/98) - Cheers for freedom rang out in Havana's Revolution Square  during Pope John Paul II Sunday Mass on his last day of his visit to Cuba. With Fidel Castro in the crowd, hundreds of thousands applauded and chanted repeatedly  enough to force the Pope stop his homily .   Calling for religious freedom and  slamming  state atheism as a   "capitalist neo-liberalism which subordinates the human person to blind market forces" the Holy Father  then told the crowd, "A modern State cannot make atheism or religion one of its political ordinances." 
Chants of  " I know it, I've seen it, With the Pope comes  Christ" was heard around the square where a 20-story-high icon of Che Guevara, the Cuban revolution's hero, stared over crowd. A  new painted image of the Sacred Heart  of Jesus, that was put up earlier this week, was across on the other side of the crowd. Atheists, Communists, Christians and curious came to the square to view the Holy Father.
The Pontiff  also spoke of the harsh economic restrictions placed on developing countries by international financial institutions, saying that "unsustainable economic programs are imposed on nations as a condition for further assistance.''
  He also added "We thus see a small number of countries growing exceedingly rich at the cost of the increasing impoverishment of a great number of other countries. As a result, the wealthy grow ever wealthier, while the poor grow ever poorer.''
TheHoly Father ended his homily by saying that the main goal continues to be to combine social justice, freedom and solidarity, with the Catholic Church's role being ``the reconciliation of the inalienable rights of man with society's demands.''

For full text of Papal message  go to Words


POPE  ANNOUNCES NEW DIOCESE IN CUBA

(EWTNews 1/24/98) At the close of the Mass celebrated Saturday  in Santiago de Cuba, the Holy Father announced that he is establishing a new diocese in Cuba -- the Diocese of Baracoa-Guatanamo. Bishop Carlos Baladrón Valdés, currently auxiliary bishop of Havana, was assigned to the new diocese as its first bishop.

 

HOLY FATHER TO MEET WITH   LEPERS IN HAVANA ON FOURTH DAY OF VISIT

(EWTNews 1/24/98) For Saturday, Pope John Paul II is traveling from Havana to Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island to deliver the third of four masses scheduled for his trip to Cuba. 200,000 people are expected to attend the Pope's mass in a square named after Antonio Maceo, a hero of Cuba's independence. There he will crown Cuba's most venerated and enduring national symbol, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre. The Holy Father  will return to Havana after the mass for a meeting with lepers and victims of illness at a clinic near the city.
On Friday the Pope was in Camagüey talking to a large crowd of  Cuban youth and  gave them a written message which is "a program of personal and social life founded on love, humility, and sacrifice which has as its ultimate purpose to serve the Lord." (Full Text Here) He   then went  to the University of Havana and visited  the monument that preserves the remains of Father Felix Varela, a Cuban priest who dedicated his life to the service of others, especially young people and whose cause is for canonization has been initiated.



500,000 Youth Celebrate Mass With Pope John Paul II

"Be not afraid to open your hearts to Christ," is the motto and exhortation Pope John Paul II gave to an estimated crowd of 500,000 Cuban youth. The Holy Father then asked them to pass it on with "boldness and apostolic courage to the rest of Cuba’s youth" as he ended the second public Mass during his visit to Cuba.

On the third day of Pope John Paul II's historic pilgrimage to Cuba, he traveled to Camagüey, Cuba’s third largest city which is located half-way between Santa Clara and Santiago and the home of the first Cardinal of Cuba. In Ignacio Agramonte Plaza, the Holy Father celebrated Mass with youth from all the dioceses in Cuba and other countries.

During his homily, the Holy Father gave the youth of Cuba a challenge and encouragement to "live your life according to the moral principles of the Gospel which the Church sets before you." He stated that "in order to hold fast to the fundamental values which keep Christians sinless, Christians sometimes have to suffer persecution because of the moral choices which are contrary to the world’s behavior. This witness to the cross of Christ in daily life is also a fertile seed and the cost of Christian witness."

Pope John Paul II, calling upon the youth to recognize they are the future of the Church and their Country, gave the youth a written message which is "a program of personal and social life founded on love, humility, and sacrifice which has as its ultimate purpose to serve the Lord." He stressed that the future begins now in the present and asked the youth to "accept the call to be virtuous", to "not look outside for what is to be found inside," and "the joy to make this a reality."

At the opening of the Mass, Monsignor Adolfo Rodruguez Herrera, Bishop of Camagüey, welcomed the Holy Father saying, "…the doors of our homes and of our hearts always open to you." Bishop Herrera stated the timing of the Pope’s visit was very important because it coincides with the diocese’s preparation for the Third Millennium.

Also a representative for the youth of Cuba welcomed Pope John Paul II calling him the "Pope of the Youth." Indeed this Pope could be considered a "Pope for the Youth," as his pastoral concern for young people goes back to his days as a priest teaching college students. During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II wrote in 1985 an apostolic letter "To The Youth of the World" and initiated World Youth Days, an annual event that brings youth from around the world to celebrate their faith.

Later today, Pope John Paul II will go to the University of Havana to visit the monument that preserves the remains of Father Felix Varela, a Cuban priest who dedicated his life to the service of others, especially young people and whose cause is for canonization has been initiated. On Thursday, Castro gave the Holy Father a leather-bound 19th century book on the life on Fr. Varela and awarded the pope with the medal of the order of Varela, Cuba’s highest honor for cultural merit.

After the visit to the monument, the Holy Father will meet and address the faculty and students of the University of Havana.



POPE JOHN PAUL II EXCHANGE GIFTS WITH  FIDEL CASTRO

(EWTNews-1/23/98)-The meeting between Pope John Paul II and Fidel Castro took place on Thursday 22 January 1998 in the evening at the Palace of the Revolution in La Habana. Accompanying the Pope were, among others, Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State of The Vatican; Monsignor Piero Marini, Master of Ceremonies for the Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations; Monsignor Stanislao Dziwisc, Secretary General for the Pope; Joaquín Navarro-Valls, Vatican Press Secretary; Jaime Cardinal Ortega, President of the Cuban Episcopal Conference; and Archbishop of La Habana; and Archbishop Beniamino Stella, Apostolic Nuncio.

For the Government of Cuba, in addition to President Fidel Castro, were Carlos Lage, Roberto Robaina, José Ramón Balaguer, Esteban Lazo, José Manuel Miyar, Felipe Pérez, Conrado Martínez and Hermes Herrera. Also present were Ricardo Alarcón, President of the Parliament of Cuba, and Caridad Diego, Director of the Ministry for Church-State Affairs. Each one personally greeted the Pope, who gave to each a commemorative medal of his visit to Cuba.

Also, Pope John Paul II and Fidel Castro exchanged gifts.

Castro gave the Pope a rare copy of a book on the biography of Father Félix Varela, that was first published in New York, USA in 1878. There are only 8 copies left of the book. Father Félix Varela was a priest who lived during the Spanish colonial rule of Cuba and who fought for the indepedence of Cuba. He also gave him a commemorative medal of The Order of Félix Varela, described as an engraved encircled star made with gold. It is the highest honor given by the Government of Cuba for achievements in the cultural sphere.

  

Pope John Paul II gave Fidel Castro a mosaic with the face of Jesus Christ. It is a reproduction of an original byzantine mosaic found in the Crypt of the Basilica of Saint Peter. The mosaic was made from the School of Mosaics of The Vatican.

Afterwards, the Pope and Castro met alone in Castro’s private office for about 50 minutes. It was the second private meeting between them since their first meeting at The Vatican in November 1996, which lasted about 35 minutes.

Father Rolando Cabrera, Press Secretary for the Archdiocese of La Habana, said that the Pope would talk to Castro about ‘a revolution to be based on love, and not on hatred and violence’. It is reported that Castro would talk to the Pope about the revolution in Cuba and the economic embargo imposed by the United States.

At the end of the meeting, Fidel and the Pope walked out together towards the stairway, escorted by the government guard of honor and greeted local and foreign press correspondents. The Pope thanked Fidel for his courteous attentions and they both shaked hands.

HOLY FATHER HAS PRIVATE MEETING WITH CASTRO

(EWTNews-1/23/98) -Yesterday after the Holy Father celebrated Mass in Santa Clara, he had a private afternoon meeting with President Fidel Castro which lasted for 40 minutes. No details are available on the substance of their conversation.
After their meeting, Castro presented Pope John Paul II with a leather-bound 19th century book on the life of Fr. Felix Varela, a Roman Catholic Priest from Cuba whose cause is being considered for beatification. Castro also gave the Holy Father a medal of the order of Varela which is Cuba's highest honor for cultural merit. Pope John Paul II gave Castro a large reproduction of a Vatican mosaic icon depicting Christ

It was released by the Vatica. later that evening, that the Holy Father requested the release of prisoners – it did not state if the prisoners were political prisoners, but rather prisoners with special circumstances. The Cuban government said they would study the matter.

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ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND ATTEND THE HOLY FATHER’S FIRST MASS IN CUBA

(EWTNews) 1/22/98 - On the first full day of Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Cuba, he traveled to Santa Clara located in central Cuba to celebrate Mass in a large outdoor arena. The theme of today’s Mass focused on the family. According the Bishop Fernanco Prego Casal, Bishop of Santa Clara, Cuba is plagued by a high rate of divorce and abortion and today’s Mass reinforced the sacrament of marriage and the importance of the family life.

In preparation for today’s Mass, posters on doors and churches around Santa Clara proclaim the Holy Father as "the messenger of truth and hope". In addition yellow and white Papal banners and Cuban flags were raised around the outdoor sports arena.

The Holy Father was welcomed by His Excellency Fernando Prego, Bishop of Santa Clara who stated, " We have waited during long years the moment in which the word of the Pope could be heard by us, directly from your lips; your word that, penetrating our souls, like the rain that nourishes our fields, and fortifies our hearts and souls." In closing he asked the Pope to guide and bring comfort to all Cuban families – families which are greatly in need of his words.

During his homily, Pope John Paul II specifically addressed Cuban families – reminding them of their Creole ancestry who built Cuba on Christian principles marked by "deep respect for their elders, sense of responsibility, submission to parental authority, happiness and optimism whether in poverty or plenty, and by a desire to work for a better world by a great faith and trust in God."

The Pope acknowledged the challenges experienced by Cuban families, which are similar to families around the world. The Holy Father said, "The path to overcome these evils is none other than Jesus Christ. No ideology can replace His infinite wisdom and power." He then encouraged the Cuban families to "not be afraid, to open their families and schools to the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which are never a threat to any social project."

His Holiness gave comfort to families in Cuba by stating, "Great is the vocation to marriage and family life inspired by the Word of God and modeled on the Holy Family of Nazareth. Marriage, with its character as an exclusive and permanent union, is sacred because its origin is in God."

Pope John Paul II closed his homily with these encouraging remarks, " Cuba: care for your families, in order to keep your heart pure!" and then asked Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Mother of all Cubans, for her intercession in behalf of all Cuban families.

10,000 PEOPLE ARE EXPECTED AT HOLY FATHER’S FIRST MASS IN CUBA

(EWTNews) 1/22/98 - On the first full day of Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Cuba, he travels to Santa Clara located in central Cuba to celebrate Mass in a large outdoor arena. The theme of today’s Mass is the family and during the Mass a wedding is scheduled. According the Bishop Fernanco Prego Casal, Bishop of Santa Clara, Cuba is plagued by a high rate of divorce and abortion and today’s wedding ceremony will reinforce the sacrament of marriage and the importance of the family life.

In preparation for today’s Mass, posters on doors and churches around Santa Clara proclaim the Holy Father as "the messenger of truth and hope". In addition Papal yellow and white banners and Cuban flags have been raised around the outdoor sports arena.



POPE URGES CHANGES TO US EMBARGO AS HE HEADS TO CUBA

ROME (CWN) -1/21/98 - Pope John Paul called on the United States to change its 35-year-old embargo
against Cuba even as he traveled to the Communist country on Wednesday for a landmark visit.

Speaking to the American people regarding the embargo at a reporter's urging, the Holy Father
said in English, "To change, to change." He added, "It seems to me that in the United States the
papal visit is followed with deep interest. Perhaps ... both Cuba and the United States are looking
for a better future -- both." The Pontiff was also asked what he wanted to hear from Cuban
President Fidel Castro to which he replied: "I want to hear above all the truth. That he tells me this
truth, that belongs to him, as a president, a man and a 'commandante', so to speak, of the
revolution."

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald newspaper reported today that Cuba's intelligence agency has spied
on the Catholic Church for decades including enrolling spies in seminaries. The information came
to the newspaper from three Cuban defectors including a former army colonel who served as aide
to Castro's brother, Raul, and two former officials in the Interior Ministry which is in charge of
national security. "The Church was always seen as a danger, because it is the only force inside the
country capable of bringing people together and even organizing a subtle form of resistance," one
Interior Ministry defector said.

 

MIAMI ARCHBISHOP ASKS ALL CATHOLICS TO PRAY DURING VISIT

MIAMI (CWN) - Miami's archbishop on Sunday called on all south Florida Catholics to pray and fast as thousands of pilgrims depart for Cuba where Pope John Paul will begin an historic papal visit on Wednesday.  
Archbishop John Favalora wrote in a letter read at Masses in the archdiocese over the weekend, "The Holy Father will be in our neighborhood. We have the opportunity to join in prayer with our brothers and sisters of the suffering Church in Cuba just across the Florida straits." The papal visit has caused controversy in south Florida's large Cuban-American population with one side refusing to support the pilgrimage for fear that it would also lend support to Fidel Castro's regime while another side praised the trip because if the hope and prospects for change it engenders. 
The Archdiocese of Miami had initially intended to take a cruise ship to Havana to attend the papal Mass in Revolution Square on Sunday, but canceled the pilgrimage following pressure from exile business and political leaders. Instead Archbishop Favalora will lead a one-day trip to Havana for a smaller group by airplane. The archbishop asked Catholics to fast and abstain and attend Mass daily beginning on Wednesday.


News Facts About Cuba

 
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