Papal trip number 24: Mexico and Cuba

On Friday, Pope Benedict will be departing on his 24th apostolic journey, during which the total number of countries he has visited will rise to 23. It will be the first of as many as five journeys the almost 85-year-old pontiff may undertake over the course of this year*. The weeklong journey to  Mexico and Cuba will be the first time that the Holy Father visits these countries, and only his third visit to the New World.

The visit to Mexico and Cuba will start on Friday, with the papal plane expected to arrive in the afternoon at Guanajato International Airport, which will be the only official event of that day. The pope will remain in Guanajato and nearby Léon until Monday morning. Besides the regular courtesy visit to the president and the celebration of public Mass (on Saturday and Sunday respectively), the Holy Father will greet children on Saturday evening and celebrate Vespers with the bishops of Mexico and other parts of Latin America on Sunday.

On Monday morning, the papal plane will depart for Cuba, with a scheduled arrival at the international airport of Santiago de Cuba at 2pm. In that city, the pope will celebrate an early evening Mass to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the ‘Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre’, the patroness of Cuba, whose shrine he will visit on Tuesday morning, just before his departure for Cuba’s capital, Havana. There, the Holy Father with meet with the president and the council of ministers of Cuba, as well as the Cuban bishops later in the afternoon. A meeting with Fidel Castro is also said to be expected, depending on the latter’s health. On Wednesday, the last full day of the visit, Pope Benedict will be celebrating a public Mass, while the rest of the day is spent on preparation for the return home.

At a street stall in Léon, paper figurines of Pope Benedict XVI are displayed for sale

The visit to Cuba, especially, is rather politically charged, since the country is officially Communist. While the pope will be meeting with president and government, there is no planned meeting with dissidents scheduled, although the latter have been calling for it. But, as we have seen in previous papal journeys, there is always the possibility that time will be made for unscheduled events.

*Other apostolic journeys this year may be a visit to Ireland in June, although that seems highly unlikely; to Lebanon and possibly Syria in September (Lebanon is already confirmed, and a visit to Syria depends on the situation in that country); and to Monaco and the Ukraine.

Photo credit: Reuters/Mario Armas

Welcome to the new nuncio

Via an official communique the press service of the Dutch bishops’ conference today published the name of the new Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands. He is the highly experienced Archbishop André Pierre Louis Dupuy.

Like his predecessor, Archbishop François Bacqué, whose resignation was accepted today, Archbishop Dupuy also hails from France. For the past six years, he represented the Holy See at various European Communities and since 2006 also in Monaco, where he was the first Nuncio. Msgr. Dupuy is almost 72 (reaching that age next February), so there is no change that he will match the long service of his predecessor. But that does not mean that he will be a footnote. As I mentioned above, the new Nuncio is highly experienced. As a priest, he worked in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See in Venezuela, Tanzania, the Netherlands (he’s no total stranger here then), Lebanon, Iran, Ireland en at the United Nations. In 1993, Msgr. Dupuy was consecrated to bishop and assigned as Apostolic Nuncio to Togo, Benin and Ghana. In 2000, he was sent to Venezuela, where he had repeated clashes with that country’s President Hugo Chavez. In 2005, then, he was assigned as the highest diplomatic representatives to a number of European Communities, with his offices in Uccle, Brussels. A year later, he became the same in Monaco. All in all, Archbishop Dupuy brings 37 years of diplomatic experience to The Hague’s Carnegielaan.

As bishop, Archbishop Dupuy holds the titular see of Selsey, located on England’s south coast. He is a doctor in history and canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Considered a confidant of Blessed John Paul II, Archbishop Dupuy wrote a book about the development of diplomacy under this pope, titled Giovanni Paolo II e le sfide della diplomazia pontificia, published in 2004.

As canon lawyer, historian and experienced diplomat, Archbishop Dupuy can do good work here with the bishops and the entire Church in this country. Closely tied to Rome and with an eye on the international community, he will be a good fit for the Dutch situation and hopefully bring fruitful solutions to some of the problems we are facing here.

The exact details of when Archbishop Dupuy will start his work here are as yet unknown. On Tuesday, retiring Nuncio Bacqué was received by Her Majesty the Queen and decorated as Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau. Cardinals Simonis and Willebrands hold or have held the same rank in that order.

For now, a heartfelt welcome to the new Apostolic Nuncio. May his years here, while understandably short, bear much good fruit.

Photo credit:Council of the European Union [cropped]