Papal soundbytes: Cuba

At the end of another successful apostolic journey, it’s time to look back at the days the Holy Father spent in Cuba. The island nation may be officially Communist, but that does not mean that Pope Benedict XVI was not welcome. On the contrary. In addition to an official welcome by President Raúl Castro and a private meeting with his brother Fidel, the faithful of the country came out in droves to welcome the Holy Father enthusiastically. As in Mexico, this did much to energise the pope, who at times seemed quite fatigued, judging by the many press photos I have come across.

Now, let’s highlight some of the words that the Holy Father addressed to nthe people of Cuba and the world. The original texts are, as usual, available here.

Cuban President Raúl Castro speaks to Pope Benedict XVI upon the latter's arrival in Santiago de Cuba

Rebirth of society

“Many parts of the world today are experiencing a time of particular economic difficulty, that not a few people regard as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with noble and strong values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person” (Welcoming ceremony, Santiago de Cuba, 26 March).

A home for humanity

“In Christ, God has truly come into the world, he has entered into our history, he has set his dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings that the world may truly become a home worthy of humanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the “Yes” to the love between God and humanity who responds to him” (Homily, Santiago de Cuba, 26 March).

Human freedom

“It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double “Yes” to the saving plan of the Father – that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation” (Idem).

The lofty mission of the family

“The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In his loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church” (Idem).


“The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, without a doubt, would prefer to take the easy way out, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is (cf. Jn 18:38), claiming is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. There are too many who, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.

On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. These are like the blind scribes who, upon seeing Jesus beaten and bloody, cry out furiously, “Crucify him!” (cf. Jn 19:6). Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and he gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes. Each man and woman has to seek the truth and to choose it when he or she finds it, even at the risk of embracing sacrifices.” (Homily, Havana, 28 March).

Pope Benedict meets with Fidel Castro in a private meeting at the nunciature in Havana. They spoke about study, books and changes in the liturgy.

Freedom of religion

“The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory (cf. Col 1:27). To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world.

The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimizes the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favourable conditions for peace and harmonious development, while at the same time establishing solid foundations for securing the rights of future generations.

When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, we become more human and our humanity becomes authentic” (Idem).

Photo credits:
[1] Javier Galeano/AFP/Getty Images
[2], [3] Reuters/Tony Gentile
[4] Reuters/Osservatore Romano
[5] Esteban Felix/AFP/Getty Images

Archbishop Eijk’s catechesis in Madrid

Archbishop Eijk during his catechesis

During the week of the World Youth Days, three mornings were devoted to catechesis by bishops of the various language groups. Fore the Dutch pilgrims, Archbishop Eijk and Bishops van den Hende and De Jong spoke about topics associated with the theme of the World Youth Days in Madrid: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith”, taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians. Only the catechesis by Archbishop Eijk has made its way online in text form, so I am now able to share an English translation of the same.

The talk was the same that the archbishop held during the Palm Sunday event in Zutphen, which I also attended. That in itself was a bit disappointing, but the talk is good enough to be heard twice. Archbishop Eijk takes the faith community of Colosse, to whom St. Paul’s letter was directed, and compares it to our own. Their are many parallels in both pluralistic societies which are not necessary open to the Christian message. How can we, in such a society, still remain firm in the faith? The archbishop offers some pointers.

Palm Sunday 2011: Impressions from a Passion

Yesterday I celebrated Palm Sunday in the Archdiocese of Utrecht, at the Emmanuel church in Zutphen. That church was host to a preparatory program, called ‘Passion’, for the World Youth Days in Madrid, in August. God willing, I will be able to go there, thanks, in large part, to the youth worker of the archdiocese, who was willing to waive to age limit. The reason that we (for it is not just me) are not joining our own diocese for the trip to Madrid is not very interesting for this blog, but it boils down to us having faith that Utrecht’s program will be a success.

The day offered various events, starting with Mass with the local parish, and continuing with presentations, practical information and workshops. Below are some photos I took during the day.

The cavernous interior of the Emmanuel church, with local parishioners and young people taking part in the WYD program.
Local priests and Auxiliary Bishop Herman Woorts (second from right) concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Wim Eijk (right).
The archbishop gives the homily
"Hoc est enim corpus meum"
Attendance was very good
Fr. Patrick Kuipers delves into the theme for the World Youth Days 2011 and the pope's letter about it
One of the workshop was an introduction to Spanish
The archbishop hosted a workshop in which he drew a comparison between the religious landscape of the Colossae, recipient of a letter of St. Paul, and our modern society
Elements that those religious landscapes share: worship of spirits and of nature, scientists and astrologers, the Greek and Roman pantheons, mysterious New Age-like religions, people who claim to be visionaries, the Jewish religion and the worship of angels.
Youth worker Hao Tran speaks about the practicalities of our trip to Spain
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament