Ladies in White

Miami Herald Editorial: Pope in Cuba, a moral voice vs. an immoral force
September 25, 2015

On his four-day visit to Cuba, Pope Francis called for forgiveness and
spiritual transformation in a land that has seen little of either in
decades. Multitudes eager to hear his message responded with rousing
cheers. Cuba’s rulers responded with police-state tactics.

Raul Castro set the tone. He was all smiles at the arrival ceremony,
happy to share the stage with the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics.
But Cuba’s president inserted a political advertisement into the cordial
event by demanding that the United States return the naval base at
Guantanamo Bay, a stunningly inappropriate issue to raise at the
welcoming ceremony.

Boorish but typical, and it was downhill from there. Cuban authorities
carried out a series of repressive actions while the pontiff was on the
island, focusing on dissidents. Some of them had been among the relative
few explicitly invited by the Holy See to take part in papal audiences.

According to a variety of reports, authorities made sure at least two
prominent dissidents were unable to attend public events where they
could greet the pope. Both Marta Beatriz Roque and Miriam Leiva were
detained on Saturday before one such event, and were also kept from a
vespers service with the pope on Sunday at Havana’s historic cathedral.

In addition, some 20 other members of the opposition group Las Damas de
Blanco (Ladies in White) were reportedly banned from a celebration of
Mass by the pope. Activists passing out pamphlets at the service were
seized by the police.

“Personally I feel very satisfied with the recognition implied by the
fact that they invited us to the pope’s activities,” Roque said
afterward in a gracious response to a regime that doesn’t deserve it.

Her experience suggests that the reason behind the failure to include
face-to-face meetings with dissidents on papal agendas in Cuba is
precisely because this puts a target on the backs of the invitees. The
Cuban regime does not respect moral boundaries, and it’s unlikely to
make an exception for anyone meeting with the pope.

Politics dominate Cuban life

Pope Francis was on a spiritual mission to bring an uplifting moral
message to Cubans trapped in the grip of an immoral dictatorship. But in
Cuba, politics affects every aspect of daily life, and religion is no
exception. A church seeking to expand space for the kind of charitable,
educational and social activities it runs in other countries is deemed a
potential threat to the state, and thus the state only grudgingly grants
it more freedom to operate. Papal homilies, in keeping with this modus
vivendi, steer clear of explicit political content.

Within these confines, the pontiff aimed some carefully worded critiques
at the authorities. On an island ruled by Marxist dogma, he urged Cubans
to serve one another and not an ideology.

And he also encouraged Cubans to refrain from “looking to one side or
the other to see what our neighbor is doing or not doing” which seemed a
clear reference to the state’s odious network of neighborhood spies.

The church’s patient statecraft has given it greater freedom of action
and made it easier for believers to practice their faith. But in doing
so, the church runs the risk of being too careful instead of taking a
bold stance on behalf of human rights in Cuba.

That would be a mistake of historic proportions. The Cuban people will
long remember who has been at their side in this time of trial against a
state that shows no sign of remorse or retreat. They need a fearless

Recall the admonition of Pope John Paul II in 1998 to the Cuban people:
“Do not be afraid.” The church itself must take these words to heart.

Source: Miami Herald Editorial: Pope in Cuba, a moral voice vs. an
immoral force | Bradenton Herald Editorials | Bradenton Herald –

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