Habemus Papam? / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

We received him like a Father who, in this land, watches over- with dignity and Cuban roots-  the bells of Demajagua and the holy image of the Virgin of Charity (Pedro Meurice, Santiago de Cuba).

It has already become the talk of the media that Benedict XVI, the post-John Paul II pope, will visit the island next year.  The visit presents challenges for three essential actors of the current Cuba.

The first is Benedict himself, who will have to live up to the (very high) example left behind by his predecessor.  Fourteen years later we still remember a sea of people screaming for freedom, embracing each other as if it were D-Day, and praying to the Virgin of Charity that Cuba and all Cubans be granted freedom.

The other actor is the Cuban Catholic Church, for in the persona of its ecclesiastical hierarchy it faces the challenge, and also has the opportunity, to demonstrate just how popular it really is before the Cuban masses, how respected it is by the government, and what it can do beyond handing out promises for a nation overshadowed by contained violence, increasing misery, and desperation as the daily main course.

The third are all of us, as a people.  The microphones and cameras of the entire world will be focusing on what we are asking for and how we go about it.  From here, they will snap a pretty photo of what we are capable of doing in the future- in a future where we have grown tired of waiting for others to do for us what we are capable of doing ourselves.

Although the ‘warrior’ of Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiu is no longer with us, someone will have to present us as a people who, on a daily basis, have less work opportunities, a nation which has been forced to tighten its own belt (a euphanism utilized to dominate us) due to an order eminating right out of the military junta which governs us, and in sum, a country where we cannot scream the word ‘freedom’ without having our heads hit and without being forced to sleep in pestilent dungeons.

And even with all of this, the opposite may occur and, during an olive green and purple embrace, we may be presented before the dejected eyes of the planet as a docile flock lacking hope, dreams, and worst of all, a plan.

*Editor’s Note:  The title of this post- “Habemus Papam?” – refers to the Latin phrase spoken by the Senior Cardinal-Deacon whenever a new pope is elected.  The phrase is spoken in the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, in front of the masses, right before the new pope may present himself.

Translated by Raul G.

13 November 2011