.- A Cuban priest believes that Pope Benedict's upcoming trip to the country will bring profound change and show that “love is the only path possible for the present and the future of Cuba.”
“I am convinced in faith that God our Lord will bring great benefit out of the Pope’s visit and out of everything that Cuba is experiencing at this time for our people and for our Church,” Father Jorge Luis Perez Soto told CNA on Feb. 2.
The priest served as pastor of the Cathedral of Havana before relocating to Rome to study dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
He said that Pope Benedict's March 26-28 visit will serve to strengthen the bond between Cubans and the Vatican. Catholics in the country are especially called to be “a means of reconciliation in Cuba,” in order to bring healing to the wounds of the past, he added.
They must also strive to “participate more in the social commitment to transform society, to transform the country at this time of great change in Cuba, and to participate actively in the life of the Church,” he said.
Fr. Perez Soto referred to the beginnings of the Communist regime in Cuba, saying it “certainly decimated the Church during those years.”
However, “I think it also did the Church a favor,” he observed, “because the Church stripped of all its incidentals had to seek after what was essential, what was central, and that made us a small Church, weak but united around our pastors, a Church united around the Holy Father.”
He recalled that the visit by John Paul II to Cuba in 1998 was “a new experience” for the Church on the island, and his messages formed the basis for pastoral ministry in the country during the following 14 years. The Communist regime also slowly began to allow greater freedoms in Cuba, he said.
“I think the people’s view of the Pope changed. They knew about him before, but to see him in person, to see him preaching the Gospel, from the Gospel of his suffering and his old age had a great impact on the Cuban people.”
Because of this experience, he added, “the Cuban people today likewise are preparing for the visit of His Holiness Benedict XVI,” who as successor to St. Peter, will come “to confirm the pilgrim flock of Christ in Cuba.”