In Cuba Cardinal Stella Asks for ‘Freedom’ for the July 11th (11J) Prisoners

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, February 8, 2023 — On Wednesday in Havana, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Pope Francis’s envoy, requested the release of Cubans who participated in the antigovernment protests on July 11, 2021.

Stella made these statements toward the end of his visit to Cuba, where he recalled the trip Pope John Paul II made to the country 25 years ago, at the time considered an historic gesture.

“The pope very much desires for there to be a positive response” from the Cuban government to the Church’s requests for the release of the convicted protesters, stated the cardinal in statements to the credentialed media on the Island.

In this regard, he believes that whether it is legally defined as amnesty or clemency is secondary because “words can also be secondary.”

“But it is important that young people who at one time expressed their thoughts in the manner we know can return to their homes,” he highlighted.

The cardinal assured that during his visit to Cuba he was able to express to Cuban authorities this “desire” of the Church and he expressed a wish that from this “useful and positive moment” that is his trip “new things will emerge for the Cuban people.”

Shortly before this, during a speech at the University of Havana in front of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Pope Francis’s envoy underscored that “freedom cannot be subordinated to any calculation of interests, circumstances, waiting for better times.”

He added that Cuba “should be free of all interference,” but he also encourages “its children to be free men and women.” Freedom, he added, must allow for material and spiritual growth.

Stella called for “promoting reconciliation and brotherhood” from “diversity” and not “a similarity of ideas”, and called for a “culture of encounter” that encourages the creation of “bridges” over which “to travel in common.”

In his declarations to the media, the cardinal called on the role of dialogue, from “kindness and respect,” is his conversations with high ranking Cuban officials as well as in relations between Havana and the United States. “Solutions can be found by speaking,” he stated.

The Vatican wishes that “those who have power could talk, and could mutually listen,” stated Stella, because “from there could emerge things that benefit the Cuban people.”

“Hopefully it will happen and happen soon (this dialogue) and it can become an important step for many advances which the Cuban people really need. There are things that should be done and done soon,” he added.

He also referenced the strong migration currently occurring in Cuba, which has lost about 3% of its population in 2022 alone, mainly due to the severe economic crisis, but also due to political repression.

The pontife’s envoy asked for Cubans to be able to make “their hopes and desires” a reality in their country and for young people to achieve their “dreams.”

Pope Francis was one of the international architects of the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba between 2014 and 2017, with former Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, a phase known as the thaw.

However, the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House ended that process and, in fact, reversed it with the application of new sanctions — added to those already in place — and the inclusion of Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In the last few months there has been a discrete and pragmatic rapprochement between the two countries in different areas of common interest, such as migration and national security and some of the latest sanctions have been lifted by Washington.

Stella arrived in Cuba on January 23rd on a trip framed by the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s pastoral trip to Cuba, the first pope to visit the Island. Later two of his successors, Benedict XVI and Francis, visited Cuba.

After the first few days in Havana, during which he had the opportunity to meet some high ranking Cuban government officials, Stella began a trip to visit every Catholic diocese in the country and interview those in charge.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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