I acknowledge that the Catholic Church through its pontificate has achieved in recent years some privileges that have benefited not only its faithful, but all Cuban Christians and the whole people in general. First by the actions of Pope John Paul II, who asked the government authorities to allow December 25th to be a holiday or festival,  as this is one of the most important dates in Christianity marking the nativity or the birth of Christ. The request was granted and after decades of passing unnoticed by the Cuban society, a date that Western culture as a whole had adopted as its own, the 25th December became a day of rest for believers and nonbelievers in Cuba.

After many Christmases in the dark, under the explicit prohibitions of the Communist government and the metaphorical strafing of the Christmas tree and the legendary Santa Claus, “for being symbols of consumerism and the capitalist and bourgeois demagoguery,” to the point where Santa was almost declared the most bourgeois of all the bourgeois,they began to resume the festivities.

The trees now shine with their bundles of colorful garlands and lights, in public places, markets, and homes, and in the shops and especially in the places where things are sold in hard-currency, elevated in this time of hospitality, as if after having been silenced for so long, not even the government takes advantage of it from an economic standpoint.

Everyone enjoys themselves or at least tries to, although the vast majority lack the financial resources to buy anything at the super high prices in the hard currency markets, and many have to construct their trees from dry branches because it is impossible to acquire one.

But the good news is that Christmas came out of hiding in the temples and has been taken by assault by all Cubans. I suggest that it is important that the church take advantage of this to remind people over and over of the true meaning of this festival and its only star, God incarnate, Jesus Christ.

A new milestone achieved, again as part of a papal visit to Cuba, this time of Benedict XVI, who explicitly requested from the Cuban political hierarchies that they cede Good Friday as a holiday.

During Holy Week or the Passion we commemorate other relevant events of greater significance for Christianity, the death and resurrection of the Savior, two moments that mark our faith and that give us hope for the future, because the death of Jesus on the cross at cruel Golgotha has redeemed us from sin and guilt before God, and his resurrection, has given us once and for all, the victory over Satan and death by ensuring those who have placed their confidence in Christ, will experience after earthly death a future life which will last forever.

This Friday was the first Passion, at least since 1959, officially declared as a holiday and I think it has been welcomed by the majority, whether or not they are Catholics.

Although the national recognition of these two celebrations so important for the churches (Catholic or Protestant) is certainly an achievement there are still many others we have been unable to reclaim and that the Communist leaders do not seem very disposed to cede to us.

Pope Benedict XVI touched on points of great importance such as allowing the church to return to the radio (and why not TV), and its right to teach in its own schools, not just in theological seminaries for the formation of young leaders and spiritual guides, but also to offer our children a Christian education for the new generations of leaders who will arise.

As the Pope said, this is a right of the church, and I would argue not only of the Roman Catholic Church but of all other churches in Cuba. The teaching in public schools does not allow believers to share their ideas in the classroom, nor to publicly carry Bibles, nor evangelical literature or tracts.

Children and young Christians have only the space offered by the churches on Sundays for worship and Biblical studies to learn the Gospel and the ethics and norms that emanate from it, and of course the guidance offered by their family if it is Christian.

State education is marked by atheism and taught as a fundamental and almost obligatory ideology, the ideas of Marxism through the lens of Castro.

It is important to insist on the return of the former church schools where, in addition to science and letters the education was imparted based on the principals of our faith.

Hopefully this will be achieved in the not too distant future, and not only for Catholics, but in the same way that the papal influence has been effective on two occasions in recovering Christmas and Easter to the benefit of all.

The freeing up of spaces to teach our faith benefits all the believers in the country, without distinction, and the whole society in turn.

Translated by: Hank Hardisty and others

April 24 2012