‘Given the new situation, a papal trip to Cuba would be hoped for’
By Andrea Gagliarducci
Vatican City, Jan 20, 2015 / 12:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the
Vatican-brokered restoration of relations between the US and Cuba, a
visit of Pope Francis to the island should be “expected and welcomed,”
according to the Vatican’s emeritus Secretary of State.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has had dealings with Cuba throughout the
course of three pontificates. His most recent visit to the nation was
Dec. 4-12, the week prior to the Dec. 18 announcement of the restoration
of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US. While there, Cardinal
Bertone had meetings with top-level Cuban officials.
In an interview with CNA Jan. 17, Cardinal Bertone stressed that
“despite the appearance that the status quo was ‘frozen’, the process of
opening was in action and continued, slowly and inexorably.” He added
that now, given the new developments, “a visit by Pope Francis should be
expected and welcomed.”
The restoration of diplomatic relations is “the outcome of a long work
of preparation, which took place at multiple levels,” he said.
Cardinal Bertone emphasized that this process was “then accelerated by
the fact that both the U.S. and Cuba had a convergent interest in doing
so,” and was then carried out thanks to “the wise and welcome mediation
of the ‘American’ Pope Francis. In this sense, the famous declaration
‘Todos somos americanos’ (We are all Americans) can be nicely interpreted.”
The former head of Vatican diplomacy underscored that “the Holy See has
effectively contributed to the historical thaw between the U.S. and
Cuba, as was openly acknowledged by U.S. president Barack Obama and
Cuban president Raul Castro.”
On the other hand, Cardinal Bertone also pointed out the “importance of
the role of Canada, one of the very few countries of the American
hemisphere that maintained diplomatic ties with the Cuban regime after
the 1959 revolution.”
The Holy See also has “maintained diplomatic relations with Cuba after
the 1959 revolution,” Cardinal Bertone noted.
“The Church did not get stuck in sterile complaints, but has continued
its pastoral actions, despite some limitations and the poverty of tools
at its disposal, and thanks also to the continual cooperation of sister
Churches in Europe and America,” Cardinal Bertone stressed.
The cardinal recounted that “step by step, using the increasing spaces
of freedom of worship, the Church has intensified in Cuba catechetic
education, as well as the presence in the world of culture and in the
pastoral care of the young, providing contents and ideals to a society
that was demotivated, and sometimes deprived of values.”
Since the lack of values is “a worry that both the Church and civil
society share,” Cuban civil society progressively opened more space to
the Church, giving the consent for the increase of the presence of
priests and religious brothers and sisters coming from abroad.
Cardinal Bertone recounted that “a progressive opening toward the Church
was especially seen in two decisions: the authorization to carry on
pastoral care for inmates, and access to spaces in media.”
Cardinal Bertone hopes that these spaces will “continue to enlarge, so
that the Church may offer its help to Cuban society.”
The cardinal has visited Cuba five times, so he knows well the internal
process of progressive opening the island is experiencing.
“My first trip took place in 2002. I was secretary of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, and I went to Cuba for the coronation of
the Statue of the Madonna in the Madonna del Buen Viaje Shrine in Santa
Clara. On that occasion, I had a special authorization to preside over a
solemn procession,” recounted Cardinal Bertone.
In 2004, Cardinal Bertone went again in Cuba, to present, in his new
capacity as Archbishop of Genoa, the two new priests that had been sent
from the archdiocese as missionaries fidei donum.
“I was also received by the Commander Fidel Castro, in the very last day
of my visit. The talk was very long, about a couple of hours, and dealt
with many social and educational issues, for instance values and
disvalues of youth,” told Cardinal Bertone.
Then as the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone travelled to
Cuba in 2008 to mark the 10th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s historic
visit to the island.
“I was in Havana, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, and
Penalver. I also held a conference at La Habana State University on
‘culture and the ethical foundation of human living,” and a speech to
the diplomatic corps accredited to Cuba.”
Cardinal Bertone was also the first foreign top official to meet with
Raul Castro after he had succeeded his brother Fidel.
In 2012, Cardinal Bertone accompanied Benedict XVI on his visit to Cuba,
where they met with national authorities as well with Fidel.
“Fidel Castro was received in the Apostolic Nunciature’s residence and
asked Benedict XVI to send him some of his books, which Benedict did,”
the cardinal recounted.
He also reminded that “like Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI condemned
the trade embargo, and hoped that unilateral points of view would be
abandoned in order to think of the common interest of the Cuban people.”
Cardinal Bertone stressed that “the Holy See had already remarked on
these issues in the audience the Pope gave in the Vatican to then-U.S.
president George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in 2008.”
Cardinal Bertone’s most recent trip to Cuba took place Dec. 4-12, 2014,
a few days before the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic
ties between Cuba and the U.S.
The trip had a twofold agenda. On the ecclesial side, Cardinal Bertone
dedicated a new shrine in Santa Clara to the Virgen del Cobre, and met
with Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez of Santiago de Cuba and Cardinal
Jaime Ortega y Alamino of San Cristobal de la Habana.
The civil program was noteworthy: Cardinal Bertone met with Caridad
Diego Bello, head of the Office for Religious Affairs of the Central
Committee of the Cuban Communist party, on Dec. 5. He also met for a
working meal with Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Cuba’s foreign minister: “We
exchanged information and opinions on current issues,” recounted
Source: ‘Given the new situation, a papal trip to Cuba would be hoped
for’ :: Catholic News Agency (CNA) –