Reinaldo Escobar, Mexico, 15 September 2015 – Two convocations have been made to the Cuban people asking them to receive Pope Francis, one from the Communist Party, and one from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of Havana. Both give details of the apostolic visit of the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church and the Head of State of Vatican City to Cuba between September 19 and 22.
The newspaper Granma previously classified the welcome of Cuban government and the people of the capital as cordial, and emphasized that “His Holiness will enjoy the respect, affection and hospitality which we will all offer him, during his stay in our country.”
The Cardinal gave a press conference with the capital’s journalists in his office at the Diocese, the details of which appear in the Havana Tribune (partially quoted in theonline site Cubadebate) where he urged Havanans to “receive the pope with an open and receptive spirit, and look on him not as someone important, distant and great, but as a close friend.”
The official organ of the Cuban Communist Party, in its Tuesday editorial, emphasized that Francis “will see our patriotism, and the arduous and fruitful effort of the Nation to exalt the human being, for its justice and culture; for that better world that is not only possible, but indispensable.”
The newspaper Granma said that Francisco “will see our patriotism, and the arduous and fruitful effort of the Nation to exalt the human being“
Both calls, the political and the ecclesiastical, made reference to the 80 years of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the Republic of Cuba, but the cardinal downplays its importance, emphasizing that what is significant is “what the Catholic Church can do, from its authority, in support of restoring confidence in man, its capacity to confront the challenges of History at this time, and of Nature, affected by man himself, with excessive consumerism and the overexploitation of resources.”
When Granma summarizes the most important moments in these relationship it evokes “the visits of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz to the Holy See in 1996, those taken to Cuba by the Supreme Pontiffs John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012, as well as the positive meeting held last May by the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers Raul Castro Ruz with Pope Francis, in the Vatican.”
Jaime, without abandoning the first person singular, recalls, “In my capacity as Archbishop of Havana, I have received them, and always as Cardinal. I was named Cardinal 21 years ago by John Paul II. Later he came to Cuba and I welcomed him.” And later he continues, “I received him with great affection. It was also a joy to receive Pope Benedict and John Paul II. I have been very close to them, and both Benedict and Francis have always had a great knowledge of Cuba, a special affection toward our country, and a closeness to me.”
In what may have been the most lively moment of the press conference, held in the Havana bishopric, one of the journalists asked the Cardinal one of those questions that in the state media environment is considered provocative, “Many are asking, will you bring up the issue of Cuba?” To which Jaime Ortego, who never misses an opportunity to miss these kinds of opportunities, responded laconically, “This event, without a doubt, will leave traces in the life our Church and in the life of our people.”
“This event, without a doubt, will leave traces in the life our Church and in the life of our people,” said Ortega
Although the two convening parties coincide in affirming that there has been unity of action with regards to preparations and ensuring the visit’s logistic base, it is clear that each one sees the issue from different viewpoints. While the Cardinal focuses on the conduct toward the Pope with a loving tone, the official text takes an emotional distance in these dealings: “We will listen to the words of His Holiness with respect and attention, demonstrating that we are a cultured and noble people, which, as a worthy host, will present its history, culture and traditions; immersed in the process of updating its socioeconomic model, committed to the defense of national sovereignty and to preserving its social conquests and achieving the greatest wellbeing for everyone without exclusions.”
The rest of the program, already published, includes a meeting with president Raul Castro, the holding of a Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana and another in the Calixto Garcia Plaza in Holguin, the meeting with bishops, priests, monks and nuns, seminarians and lay people; the greeting of young people and Cuban families, and the final Mass in the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Patroness of Cuba. Neither of the two sources mentioned again that a meeting between the Pope and Fidel Castro is on the schedule.