14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 14 September 2015 — A Cuba of different points of view and clashing passions is what the Bishop of Rome will find when he begins, in a few days, his visit to the island. A country that wants to enter the future, but that remains clamped in place by a political discourse that died in the 20th century. This context will require all of the diplomatic skills of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, but it is worth advising him of the imposing verse from Ruben Dario: “Don’t get too close, Brother Francis.”
On his arrival in Havana a massive welcome and the corresponding family photos will await the pope. He will have to pose next to a power that decades ago ordered a the tearing off of scapulars, prohibited crucifixes, and forced the portraits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be hidden in the depths on our homes. The same government that blocked, under fear of reprisals, several generations of Cubans from being baptized or entering a church.
In the plaza where the face of the atheist Ernesto Guevara adorns the façade of the Ministry of the Interior, Francis will celebrate his Mass. He will come preceded by his reputation as a revolutionary within the Church, a conciliatory man willing to break with protocol. He also carries on his shoulders having been a mediator in 18 months of secret conversations between the governments of the United States and Cuba.
The responsibility he has taken on with a gesture such as this surpasses the glory he will receive for his intervention. Now, it is time for other interventions. Francis will know close up a society where a few have excluded the millions in making decisions. A nation where ideological differences are paid for with insults, repression and exile. A system that has cultivated the evil leaven of intolerance, and where the individuals who govern are supported by the wolf of intransigence.
A papal visit will not change Cuba nor does the Vatican Head of State have to carry the demands of its eleven million inhabitants
Bergoglio will visit ex-president Fidel Castro in his long convalescence, the principal architect of so many divisions and sorrows. But beware: “Do not get too close, Brother Francis.” This man and power in Cuba represent just the opposite of what a Holy Father wants to promote in his homilies and acts.
The Cuban government will seek from this visit validation and prestige. Without a doubt, it will gain something. It will show a better disposition toward believers, although deep down it continues its distrust of the Catholic Church and has not offered a public self-criticism for the years of excess against the faithful. On the other hand, it will pardon almost 3,500 prisoners, but it will maintain intact the penal code that sends so many people to prison for the simple act of killing a cow or opposing the government.
The faithful and the people in general will live days of hope and control. If the repressive blueprint of Benedict XVI’s visit is repeated, many will learn the content of the Masses days later when they emerge from the cells where there will have been held in “preventive detention.” They also will want the shepherd to intercede for them, to speak for them, to recognize their existence. Can Bergoglio gather up these demands?
We must remember that a papal visit will not change Cuba nor does the Vatican Head of State have to carry the demands of its eleven million inhabitants. “Go to your monastery, Brother Francis, continue on your path and your sanctity,” the Nicaraguan bard would have told him. However, this time, we need you to stop, to be aware, to calm this beast of political nonsense that lives among us.
Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez