.- The bishops of Cuba confirmed on Dec. 8 that Pope Benedict XVI will visit the country in 2012.
The Pope “wants to visit our country as a ‘Pilgrim of Charity’ to accompany us and confirm the faith of the Cuban people,” the bishops said in their announcement.
Although the exact dates have not yet be set, Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana said the visit could take place during the second half of March.
During a press conference on Thursday, bishops' conference secretary Bishop Jose Felix Perez said the Pope will announce the schedule of his visit at a Dec. 12 Mass in Rome commemorating the bicentennials of Latin American countries.
Bishop Felix said that Pope Benedict's trip would be a continuation of Blessed John Paul II’s visit in 1998. “It is going to be an opportunity to energize the faith in Cuba,” he noted.
The visit comes as the country celebrates the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity in the waters off the Cuban shore.
The image “has been a message from God for the Cuban people, written not with ink but with the Spirit of God alive in the hearts of every believer,” the bishops wrote. “A message that we can all read and understand.”
In their letter, they encouraged all Cubans to open their “hearts to God who, in Jesus Christ, calls us to live the Christian faith that comes to all Cubans through Our Lady of Charity.”
“Where God is there is a future,” the bishops said. “Where God is there is joy. New horizons are opening but we must recognize that God is always present, especially when we allow Him to enter.”