.- The Catholic bishops of Cuba have expressed their hope that Pope Benedict will visit the island nation in 2012. Bishop of Holguin Emilio Aranguren commented, “it’s our hope, our interest, that the Pope come to Cuba in the year 2012… It’s up to the Holy See.”
The bishop spoke at a briefing on the activities of Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s secretary for Relations with States, who is in Havana to mark Catholic Social Week. According to the Associated Press, Bishop Aranguren said the visit had nothing to do with a possible papal visit.
In 1998 Pope John Paul II made the first papal visit to Cuba. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, visited in 2008.
The year 2012 marks the 400th anniversary of the discovery of a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary which has become an object of veneration on the island, the Associated Press reports. In 1612 three men from the eastern copper mining town of El Cobre found the statue floating off the coast. It was labeled “I am the Virgin of Charity.”
Under the title “Our Lady of Charity,” St. Mary was declared patron saint of Cuba in 1916.
Cuban political dissidents have hoped that Archbishop Mamberti’s visit could lead to freedom for more political prisoners or more prison transfers for those held far from their families.
Bishop Aranguren said that the archbishop will likely meet with President Raul Castro before he leaves on Sunday but has no plans to meet with dissidents.