Pope John Paul II sent a message to mark the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Cuba, in which he encourages Catholics on the island to “serenely enlighten” the national society with a peaceful dialogue dominated by “liberty, justice, truth and love.”

In the message, which was addressed to Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiú of Santiago, the Holy Father “encourages each parish to foster through civic and religious formation the integral education of those who approach the Church with the desire to grow in humanity.”

The message, which was signed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, says the Pope is counting on the collaboration of missionaries, catechists and the laity to foster “human promotion and social assistance to those most in need.”  The Pope likewise invites “the pilgrim People of God of Santiago, Cuba, under the protection of the Our Lady of Charity,” to be witnesses of “the unity and fidelity of the message of Christ.”

Celebrations began in Santiago with a Mass concelebrated by 10 Cuban bishops.  An art exposition entitled Glorious Anniversary was also inaugurated, with more than 100 historical, religious and cultural works of art on display.