What Pope Benedict XVI Left Us / Anddy Sierra Alvarez

The coming of Benedict XVI to Cuba put the country on the move, the repression by the political police towards dissidents, opponents or defenders of human rights was incredible. Those three days were the darkest and most inhumane; detentions beginning days before the arrival of the Pope in Havana surprised many.

Preparations for the Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution were extreme: beggars, and drunks were taken to the Mazorra psychiatric hospital where, according to a source working on the scene, the hospital was filled and many had to sleep on the floor.

The choir which, a week beforehand, was preparing to sing at the Mass in Havana said that they were replaced by another, with the excuse that the other was more professional, and they were paid ten pesos in national currency, not as wages but so they could have some lunch.

Attendance at the Plaza, according to neighbors of the area, was not made up of Catholics but rather of people who were atheists but who had the trust of the government. According to statistics, the 6 or 7 blocks around the square known as “The Tall Buildings of Havana,” has a population of 27,617 according to the local polyclinic; these citizens — many Catholic — were not at the Plaza, it was filled with people who came in the day before, even sleeping in the street.

Benedict XVI said that Cuba should be “the home of all and for all Cubans, where they live in justice and freedom in a climate of peaceful brotherhood,” but he had not the slightest inclination to hold a small dialog with the opposition on the island.

His farewell was overtaken by the rain that momentarily interrupted his brief words before he boarded Alitalia flight 777 for Rome.

The former Polish Pope, John Paul II, referred to the human rights of the political prisoners, but this one did not; the reception of John Paul II was more real, because many Catholics were there, and they weren’t controlled by the government, but it was different this time — the opposition was stronger than now, there were more people than now, there was no Twitter, no Facebook, or Internet access for Cubans with ideas different from the governments’.

16 April 2012