On Thursday morning, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone met with the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops (COCC) and delivered a message from Pope Benedict to the people of Cuba. While praising the legacy of Christianity, he also called on Cubans to renew their efforts to evangelize.
The meeting with the Cuban bishops marks the beginning of a 6-day visit by the Vatican’s Secretary of State to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to the island nation.
In his speech delivered at the Saint John Marie Vianney Priests’ House in Havana, Cardinal Bertone began by recalling Pope John Paul II’s visit. “Remembering, ten years later, those days that were unforgettable for the Cuban Church and the Cuban population, lived in front of the excited eyes of the whole world,” began Benedict XVI , “is no doubt a duty of gratitude for my revered predecessor” and an opportunity to “renew the evangelizing impulse that he left deeply imprinted in everybody’s heart.”
“I spiritually feel amongst you, as is proven by the presence of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone”, Pope Benedict wrote, professing his “esteem” for the local clergy and “sympathy with the aspirations and concerns of all Cubans”.
The Holy Father also had words of praise for the Christian legacy of Cuba. This faith “has taken root in the Cuban soul”, because the “values” of the Gospel, which arrived five centuries ago on the island, “have had great influence over the birth of the nation” and remain “a vital factor, not least for the harmony and the happy future of the country,” Benedict XVI wrote.
“The believers’ job,” the Pope recalls in his message, is to show “that the Church, in focusing its glance on Jesus, tends to do good, to promote the dignity of man, and, while sowing feelings of understanding, mercy and reconciliation, it helps improve man and society”.
The Holy Father also spoke about the priorities that the Cuban Church should have. “Announcing the right doctrine, introducing to, listening to and learning more about God’s Word, promoting participation in the Sacraments and in the life of prayer”; these are the “main goals of pastoral work”, since “bringing everyone to the salvation of Christ is the very core of the mission of the Church.”
The problems faced by the Church in Cuba were also addressed in the Pope’s letter. “Sometimes some Christian communities feel oppressed by problems, by the scarcity of resources, by indifference or even by timidity, which can lead them to lose heart”, the believers “know they can always place their hopes on Christ Jesus, who never disappoints.”
With this encouragement, the Holy Father pointed to the “great importance give to the mission that the Church in Cuba carries out in favor of the needy ones, working in the service and care of men and women of every status, who deserve not only to be supported in their material needs, but also to be welcomed with affection and sympathy”.
Benedict XVI closed his letter by reminding Cubans that they should look to the servant of God, Félilx Varela, and José Marti, the “propagator of love among Cubans and among all men.”