In a brief interview with the Associated Press, the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, said John Paul II’s visit to the country changed both the Church and Cuban society.
“The mark John Paul II left in Cuba is profound. Starting at that moment, things were different in the Church’s relations with society and the state,” the cardinal said after celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of Havana.
He also said the upcoming visit by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone would be “a follow-up” to what the Pope started. Cardinal Bertone will be in Cuba February 21-26.
John Paul II made the world known to Cubans and made Cuba known to the world, Cardinal Ortega continued. His visit marked “an official opening for the Church to carry out her mission, and an openness in Cubans towards the faith that for many years was kept quiet.”
He went on to say that today “our people have faith, and although there is no spectacular growth in the Church, there is always a growing vitality.”
Cardinal Ortega noted that during the last 10 years this new openness in Cuba has brought benefits and dangers, “since modern culture can also bring with it much consumerism and a sort of indifference for the sacred, which is not positive.”