The Path to Santiago…Three Times / Luis Felipe Rojas

One. I saw it this past Sunday, March 4th, in the film ‘El Camino’ (‘The Path’). Four pilgrims were going down the Way of St. James*. For diverse reasons, they form a team, bring their lives together, and after many prayers, discover a compass to their new lives. It turns out that sometimes literature and film act like metaphors for real life, but sometimes reality mimics fiction invented by the dreams of human beings. There is nothing like a starting point and a goal, even if the goal is not well defined, and even if, from the beginning, we do not know where we are heading to. There are occasions in which the path itself is the goal. There are no more surprises than the path taken. There is no other prize.

Two. This upcoming 26th of March, thousands of Cubans will stand before the ‘Antonio Maceo’ Plaza of the Revolution in Santiago de Cuba. At 5:30 pm, his Holiness Benedict XVI will speak to those present about Faith and Hope. According to the official note published by the Conference of Catholic Cuban Bishops (COCC), it will be a spiritual trip and there may be certain pressures moving against the Catholic Church, according to the spokesperson of Archbishop Orlando Marquez, whom references certain chess pieces being moved by restless sectors of civil society. A few days ago, Marquez mentioned the letter sent to His Holiness by a group of Cuban dissidents, among them Guillermo Farinas, so that the Pope cancel his visit or, that if he does not, that he at least meet with representatives of the non-violent opposition and of civil Cuban society. Amid the episcopal informational coldness, which assured that matters of human rights and politics will not be discussed, diverging voices have emerged in regards to the possible meeting between Benedict XVI and the former chief of government Fidel Castro. The point of discord resides in that the representative of Rome will listen to the arguments of an ex-soldier, an ex-dictator, and does not want to meet with a sector of the “suffering world”.

Three. For more than two months now, hundreds of women from the Laura Pollan Ladies in White Movement are being harassed, attacked, and arbitrarily detained for trying to go on their own “Path to Santiago” each Sunday- their pilgrimage amid very difficult circumstances which include the most brutal repression unleashed by the police and the compliance of local authorities in places as diverse as Havana, Perico in Matanzas, Holguin, or Palma Soriano. For some, the answer is yes, while for other it is no. In the face of such a situation, I feel the need to call on the attention of the ecclesiastical authorities of the dioceses as controversial as Holguin-Las Tunas and Guantanamo-Baracoa: these women try to reach Catholic temples, not mosques or spiritualist centers. Does this not interest the church, the laymen, or, in sum, the community?

When I was putting this post together, images of a mass held for the health of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in the Cathedral of Havana were being flashed across the television screen. So then… yes for Chavez and no for Orlando Zapata, Juan Wilfredo Soto, Wilman Villar Mendoza? Yes to the church, the accredited diplomatic body in Havana and no the Ladies in White?

We must remember that the refusal of help is a crime punished by the penal codes of various countries, and in the case of devout Christians, turning one’s cheek to injustice is a mortal sin.

*Way of St. James- a religious pilgrimage which takes place in Galicia, Spain, where devout Catholics travel to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where many believe the remains of Saint James the apostle lay.

 Translated by Raul G.

6 March 2012