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GREETING OF MONSIGNOR PEDRO MEURICE ESTIU, ARCHBISHOP OF SANTIAGO DE CUBA, TO HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II,  UPON HIS ARRIVAL TO SANTIAGO DE CUBA, CUBA

SATURDAY 24 JANUARY 1998

 

Most Holy Father:

In the name of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba and of all men of good will of these oriental provinces, I give you a most cordial welcome.
This is an indomitable and hospitable land, a cradle of freedom and a home with an open heart.

We receive you as a Father in this land which protects, with inmost dignity and deep roots, the bell of the "Demajagua" and the blessed image of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre.

The warmth of the orient, the unconquered soul of Santiago and the filial love of the Catholics of this primate diocese proclame: Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord!

I want to present, Holy Father, with this land entrusted to me. I want Your Holiness to know of our achievements in education, health, sports…our great potential and virtues, our desires and our anguishes from this portion of Cuban land.

Your Holiness, this is a noble people and a suffering people.

This is a people that has the richness of joy and the kind of material poverty that saddens and opresses, until they can longer see beyond their inmediate substinence.

This is a people that has a vocation for universality and is a builder of bridges of friendship and affection, but, more and more, is being prevented by foreign interests and suffers under a culture of selfishness due to the harsh economic and moral crisis undergone by them.

Our people are respectful of authority and grateful of order but they also need to put away beliefs in false messiahs.

This is a people that has fought for many centuries for social justice and now finds itself, at the end of one of these phases, searching again how to overcome inequality and lack of participation.

Holy Father, Cuba is a nation that has a singular vocation for solidarity, but in all its history, it has seen the halting and dismemberment of all participation and association in civil society, in such a way that I can only present to you a nation that yearns to rebuild fraternity upon the bases of freedom and solidarity. 

I want you to know, Holy Father, that all Cuba has learned to look at the small image of Our Blessed Virgin, who will be crowned today by Your Holiness, that greatness does not lie in dimensions of objects and structures, but in the moral height of the human spirit.

I present to you also a growing number of Cubans that have confused patriotism with a political party, a nation with the historical process that we have lived, and a culture with an ideology. These are Cubans who, having rejected everything at once, without discernment, are torn, now rejecting everything here and embracing everything foreign.

Holy Father, for years this nation has defended sovereignty with its geographical frontiers with true dignity, but we have somewhat forgotten that this independence must come forth from the sovereignty of the human person who can sustain, from all levels in society, all projects of the nation.

I present to you the glorious times of Father Varela from the Seminary of Saint Charles in La Habana, and from Saint Anthony Mary Claret in Santiago de Cuba. But I must also present to you the dark years of the nineteenth century during which the Catholic Church suffered, until coming into the twentieth century, it crossed the decade of the 1950s when it shone with greatest splendor and cultural identity. Afterwards, as fruit of the ideological confrontation with state-induced marxism and leninism, it was again impoverished, left without means and pastoral agents. Yet it was never left without The Holy Spirit,as was seen during the National Cuban Ecclesiastical Congress.

There is another reality that I must present to you: this nation lives in geographical disunity. There are Cubans who suffer, live and wait here, and there are also Cubans who suffer, live and wait out there. We are a singular people who, wandering through the seas, we continue to search for a reunion as a nation that will not be fruit of uniformity but of having a common soul and a sharing of diversity.

It was from the sea that Our Lady of Charity came to us. She is the hope of all Cubans. She is the Mother whose mantle shields us all, irrespective of race, creed, politics or geography.

The Catholic Church in Latin America promulgated, in the Conference of Puebla, the preferential option for the poor. And the most poor among us are those who do not have the precious gift of freedom. Pray, dear Holy Father, for the sick, for the prisoners, for the elderly and for the children.

Holy Father, we Cubans beg you most humbly to make an offering on the altar, with the Immaculate Lamb who becomes our bread of life, all these yearnings and longings of the Cuban people; and that, by adorning Our Heavenly Mother with this crown of realities, sufferings, joys, and hopes, the Virgin Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we here who call her Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, you will crown her as Queen of the Republic of Cuba.

Thus, all generations of Cubans will be able to continue to come to her, with even more apostolic courage and serenity of spirit, with the beautiful words of her hymn: "….And your Name will be our shield, your protection will be a grace for us….". Amen.

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