.- As he concluded his historic trip to Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the people of the island nation to “look again to the faith of your elders” and to “draw from that faith the strength to build a better future.”
By allowing the “most noble values” of the Cuban soul to blossom, the country can create “the basis for building a society of broad vision, renewed and reconciled,” he said as he prepared to leave for Rome.
During a March 28 farewell ceremony at José Martí International Airport, the Pope urged the nation to “trust in the Lord’s promises” and be open to the Gospel “so as to authentically renew your personal and social life.”
Looking to the future, the Holy Father noted the need to “reject immovable positions and unilateral viewpoints which tend to make understanding more difficult and efforts at cooperation ineffective.”
In a reference to the political situation in Cuba, the Pope said respect for basic freedoms is “essential in order to respond adequately to the fundamental demands” of human dignity and to “build up a society in which all are indispensable actors in the future of their life, their family and their country.”
He also alluded to the continued embargo against Cuba, saying that “restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people” and worsen problems of material need.
The Pope’s farewell comments echoed themes that he highlighted during much of his March 26-28 trip to Cuba.
Throughout his visit, he repeatedly emphasized the need for a renewal of faith, in order to bring about peaceful change in society.
He also stressed the importance of freedom – particularly religious freedom – in allowing the Church to help build up society.
In a March 27 meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro, the Pope presented humanitarian requests and discussed the continued plight of Cuban dissidents, especially those in prison.
He also asked Castro to declare Good Friday a national holiday due to its importance in the Catholic calendar.
As his pilgrimage came to an end, the Holy Father promised to “continue praying fervently” that Cuba may progress in its journey of “authentic development” in Christ.
He urged the nation to hold tight to Christ, explaining that “wherever he is present, discouragement yields to hope, goodness dispels uncertainties and a powerful force opens up the horizon to beneficial and unexpected possibilities.”
Pope Benedict finished his farewell by entrusting the Cuban people to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, asking her to continue to “sustain them in the midst of their trials and to obtain from Almighty God the grace that they most desire.”