Ladies in White

Francis And The Flight Of Skullcap / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on September 21, 2015

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 September 2015 — A popular joke
about the arrival of Pope John Paul II to Cuba referred to the wind
blowing away his skullcap and its falling into the sea during a walk
along the Malecon. Fidel Castro then walked on the water and rescued the
silk cap. The next day, the newspaper Granma’s editorial declared that
“El Comandante is God,” while L’Osservatore Romano asserted that the
pontiff was responsible for the miracle and the Miami press concluded,
“Castro can’t even swim anymore.”

On Saturday Pope Francis came to the island and a playful wind snatched
his skullcap from his head as he was descending the stairs of the plane.
It was just nature, the Havana breeze making itself felt. However, this
unexpected little thing could symbolize his visit to Cuba, a journey
where the moments outside of protocol will define the success or failure
of his stay in this country.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio has a busy schedule of activities programmed, but
certain “surprises” have already obliged him to diverge from the
official program. After the daring breeze that greeted his arrival, the
pope had to listen to a combative welcoming discourse from Raul Castro,
where he made it clear that there is no need “to intervene, directly or
indirectly, in the internal affairs of any other state.” In simpler
language, “Mind your own business and shepherd your flock.”

Although the Cuban government has publicly praised Francis’s role as
mediator during the secret talks between Washington and Havana, it also
wants to make clear that the papal arbitration ends when he begins to
ask for internal changes on the island. Equipped with the latest
measures relaxing travel and trade with Cuba, just approved by US
president Barack Obama, the Bishop of Rome could invite Raul Castro to
put things in order in his own house.

In this diplomatic action, Francis should advocate for respect for
freedom of the press, expression and association, an end to any vestiges
of political imprisonment, and the restoration of citizenship rights to
exiles. If he managed to push these changes, the Pope would score a
historic mediation: one between the Cuban government and its own people.

Even the words almost whispered into the ear of the General President
are within the protocol, part of the program. But the shouts of the four
members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba arrested in the Plaza of the
Revolution diverged from the program. Francis acted initially as pastor,
putting his hand on the head of one of the regime opponents and seeming
to listen for a few seconds, but then State Security dragged the
dissident beyond the range of the cameras and, as of now, his
whereabouts remain unknown.

Another event that has distorted the papal activities calendar is the
arrest of the activist Martha Beatriz Roque on two consecutive days when
she tried to honor an invitation to the Apostolic Nunciature to greet
the pontiff. State Security appeared to have a parallel agenda for
Francis and among its most important points is to block the Cuban
opposition from any contact with him. Hence, they also did not allow the
Ladies in White to reach the Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution.

On the other hand, a programmed part of his visit was the meeting with
the former Cuban president. Unlike that popular joke starring Wojtyla,
this time Fidel Castro did not jump vigorously over the wall of the
Malecon, rather the Pope went to his house, where he was barely able to
leave. The final photo of the meeting, taken by the dictator’s son
himself, had certain airs of extreme unction, winds of finality. The
Pope’s skullcap appeared firmly perched on his head, prepared for the
political blizzard that awaits him.

Source: Francis And The Flight Of Skullcap / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba –

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