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Cuban bishops: The Social Presence of the Church A Theological Pastoral Instruction

 
To all priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, and faithful laypersons


I. Introduction:

On the occasion of the feast of our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, our Mother, and upon the fifth anniversary of Her Coronation as Queen and Patroness of Cuba by Pope John Paul II during his unforgettable visit to our Country, we, the Bishops of Cuba, would like to share with you some thoughts and proposals that we consider necessary with regard to the mission of the Church, especially at this particular time in our nation.

We have before us the social and ecclesial reality, which with our common origin and destiny, we live in communion with all our Cuban brothers and sisters. We share with our priests, deacons, religious men and women, and many of our laypeople the concerns, burdens, and aspirations of so many who come to us looking for direction and comfort.

To all, in your personal life as well as in your ecclesial commitment, we address our words with the hope that they shed light on your efforts and aspirations, with the goal of mutual support in our trials, always keeping hope based in the one true God who has shown us His presence and love. in Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ whom we recognize as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14, 6), and to whom we listen as the only Teacher “who has the words of everlasting life” (John 6, 68), who inspires the criteria, attitudes, and commitments that we, as Bishops, wish to share with you.

2. On the Tenth Anniversary of "Love Hopes All Things"

It has been ten years since we Cuban Bishops published our Pastoral Letter “Love Hopes All Things.” Those were critical times since the rapid deterioration of the economic situation had resulted in drastic social repercussions.

We Bishops then manifested our concern, describing not only the external factors of the crisis, but the internal ones as well: those where, in reality, our common reflection can find causes and solutions. Though we proposed a search for solutions, the media disseminated for an entire month the official interpretation of our letter with a fierce attack made up of every kind of distortion and even insults, ending with an absolute rejection of the letter. Not even the slightest possibility of a positive contribution on the part of the Church was allowed. Our letter was criticized but never published by the official media.

However, with the passage of time and in the climate of greater acceptance brought about by the introduction of the dollar into the general economy, the immigration agreements that gave many the hope of being able to emigrate, and other measures, we saw that a year after our letter, some of the proposals that provoked so much verbal violence were being put into practice.

In the years that followed, a free farmers market was once again allowed; licenses were issued for various types of self-employment; small restaurants, child care in private residences, and some private transportation services were authorized; private enterprise in the pictorial and musical arts, as well as in the field of arts and crafts increased, and some level of marketing was authorized as well. It seemed that new winds were blowing and, even though the political arena remained a closed one, some felt a greater tolerance for the future since, little by little, ideological pressure and propaganda had markedly decreased. This more open climate was favorable for the preparation of Pope John Paul’s visit to Cuba.

3. The Pope's Visit

“That Cuba, with all of its magnificent possibilities, open up to the world and that the world open itself to Cuba” seemed to many throughout the world to be the catalyst and the motivating proposal for new hopes that the Pope left as his best legacy to all Cubans. International dignitaries and personalities showed that this was the case as they rapidly wanted to walk in the footsteps of the Pope, visiting our country, establishing or re-establishing suspended diplomatic relations, etc.

We Cuban Bishops, keeping in mind the full content of the teachings of the Pope in our country, have considered the Holy Father’s call for Cuba to open up to the world not only as an invitation to the growing insertion of Cuba in the family of nations, but also as a call that our people be given an opening internally to the exercise of, and respect for, the integral rights of the human person, including not only the right to life, health and education, but also the right to freedom of expression and to social and political participation. It is one of our values that the primary rights to health care, education, and certain social security are highly valued and protected, but it is necessary to promote other rights that are also rooted in the dignity of man, created free by God.

II. Facing Reality

Notwithstanding the novelty of the language and the spaces that seemed to open up during the days of the visit of the Holy Father, we have seen how, almost immediately thereafter, the country began an apparent process of revision that did not favor the hopes for of pluralism, tolerance, and liberalization that seemed to appear on the national horizon. Added to that was a frank reversal in the opening of the economy to the just desires of people with small businesses, private jobs, etc.; the imposition of more taxes, the assessing of high fines, and the denial of permits which discouraged or impeded those economic activities.

Since the visit of the Pope, Cuba has witnessed an increasing return to the language and methods typical of the first years of the Revolution in everything concerning ideology. This can be seen in almost all aspects of public life through “the battle of ideas,” “the marches,” “the courts,” and the “round tables.” Various national or international events have served to support those actions. However, this repetitive style in communication has brought out into the open the fact that the ideological treatment of the problems makes information less objective and makes any possibility of critical dialogue difficult.

When the ideology of the Government is identified with the entire legal system and the ethical reality of the country, Society becomes identified with the State and thus the State becomes the conscience of the citizens. The difficult situation created by this wrong identification can only be overcome by the development of a civil ethic and the growth of an open culture wherein the greatest possible number of realities and hopes of the citizens converge. It is worrisome to note that, at the present time, everything with regard to thoughts and actions that do not coincide with the official ideology is considered lacking in legality and is disqualified and fought against without taking into account the truth and rightness that it might have.

We must point out that, after the visit of the Holy Father, the legitimate requests that were set forth in his speeches and meetings with regard to the Catholic Church are still pending. However, for the bishops of Cuba, these are not the only or the main concerns of the present time when it is evident to us that for many Cubans there is a lack of hope, a daily struggle to survive, and a growing desire to migrate. We are especially worried about the imprisonment and severe sentences imposed on a considerable number of political dissidents, as well as the application of death sentences in summary proceedings. We are impressed by the sadness expressed by the Pope as a result of these actions that, for the moment, have shut the door to freedom of expression and understanding among Cubans.

We bishops of Cuba share the sentiments of the Holy Father, and making his words our own, once again appeal to the highest authorities of the country for a gesture of clemency towards these people who are incarcerated, and most of all, we ask the authorities to humanely take into consideration their age, health and sex, all of which require special consideration. We ask that all of them be brought closer to their places of residence and given better conditions in prison.

III. Nature and Mission of the Church

The social transformations that have taken place in Cuba, inspired by the Marxist-Leninist ideology over a long period of the revolutionary process, with its resulting prejudices and ignorance of what the Church is, move us to once again set forth the nature of the Church and what determines its life and mission in the world.

1. The Church, An Event of Grace
The visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba has significantly marked the life of the Church. His visit made Cubans and the whole world take notice of the presence of a vibrant Church, faithful to her mission, capable of carefully organizing the visit and calling our fellow citizens to such an historic event, despite the lack of sufficient priests and nuns and the means appropriate for fulfilling its mission.

These years after the visit of the Holy Father have been years of growth and revitalization for the Church in Cuba, for which we thank God, and they inspire us to continue to move forward with renewed enthusiasm and pastoral creativity. Among the signs of this vitality are the creation of new dioceses, the emergence of hundreds of houses of prayer in neighborhoods and towns without churches, the commitment of the laity to this missionary endeavor, etc.

But the Church is not just a social reality. It is above all an event of grace. It is a mystery, that is, a “profound reality penetrated by God’s grace” (Paul VI). This theological dimension of the Church is fundamental. The resurrection of Jesus and the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost constitute the Church as a sanctifying and vivifying presence.

The originality of Jesus—in his action and in his message—generates the originality of the Church. In all its being and all its mission, the Church refers itself back to Jesus Christ as the source, sense and correction of what its life and its action in society should be. Jesus Christ is not only the founder of the Church, he is also its foundation. The Church through its origin, its end, and the means of its own pastoral duties is different from the State, distinct from civil society or the associations or groups that constitute it.

The Church is of divine origin and is therefore not to be compared to any other social entity. The Church is not a society alternative to the community of men and women. Nor is it just another reality equal with others that make up civil society; it cannot even be considered a part of these other entities since the Church is a community open to all, one that welcomes to its bosom those who belong to various state, governmental, and even military classes.

What the Church can contribute to society as a project is nothing but what Christ proposed through his word and his example. She has to make Jesus Christ unforgettable. But in the conduct and words of Jesus, the central nucleus is the revelation of God as gratuitous love and mercy, a Father who wants abundant life for all. Thus, the project of Jesus, which should be the project of the Church as well, is the coming of the Kingdom of God, that fraternity where everyone can sit as brothers and sisters at the common table of creation. The Church’s concern for the condition of those who are excluded and its message of reconciliation can be understood by that theological inspiration and seen as the Church’s participation in the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

The Church is the bearer of a Word and of Sacraments that she has received freely from Jesus Christ and that can help improve civil society to the extent that the Church itself is a truly religious community of faith, a living and meaningful memory of Jesus Christ. This theological vision rejects the idea of conceiving of the Church, whether from within or from without, by its members or its adversaries, as just another social institution that opposes others with the logic of power. Such a vision of the Church would disfigure its condition, thus confusing its action in society and inflicting damage to its credibility as the living presence of Jesus Christ.

2. The Mission of the Church
Jesus entrusted to the Church the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. The Church must preach Jesus Christ in season and out, convincing all people to meet with him to participate in his new life and attain salvation. This new life is born of the love of God that Christ puts in the heart of Christians who can then commit themselves to the coming of the Kingdom of God: “The Kingdom of truth and of life, of sanctity and of grace, of justice, of love, and of peace” (Preface of the Mass of Christ the King).

The role of the Church is always the service of love of neighbor and society. To human beings, especially the most needy, the Church as the community of the believers in Christ, must practice truth, justice, solidarity, and charity, and always to do so in an evangelical way. In the Church, the “prophetic” is not just proclaiming what is good and denouncing what is evil, or doing either one exclusively, but in assessing reality in accord with the concrete circumstances, according to the intentions and style proper to Jesus, so that we “proclaim with love” or, in a given case, “denounce with love.”

It is certain that charity or Christian love becomes real and tangible only in a social setting, in an organization of the city, of the “polis.” We rightly speak of “political charity,” because Christian love influences the transformation of society and takes shape in the institutions of society. There is often a temptation in those economic, political, or religious institutions, of which we must become aware, to replace the love that serves with the power that oppresses, or with the protest that may shake up and irritate, but is not constructive.

Nevertheless, the Christian community should be seed of solidarity, and Christians are called to show the new bond of universal solidarity to which the Gospel calls us, one that is alien to all political or propagandizing strategies and calculations. Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual because we are all really responsible for all” (John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, n.38).

Because of Christian solidarity, the Church has to proclaim, promote, and defend human dignity, social justice, and all the rights of the person which are inseparable from the Kingdom or God.

In accordance with the teachings of Vatican Council II, we wish to recall that in this field, Christian laypeople have their specific role. “In love of country and in faithful compliance with civic duties, all Catholics must feel obliged to promote the true common good and, thus make the weight of their opinion count so that political power is exercised with justice and that laws respond to the precepts of morality and the common good” (Cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem n.14).

3. The Church, Sign of Communion
The most visible face of the Church is that of its members. The nature of the People of God is that which is seen as closer and more immediate. However, what makes the People of God be Church is that Jesus Christ gathers together and unites with himself and each other those who believe and accept his teachings, wait on his promises, and fulfill the commandment of love.

By the will of Christ, the Church is an organically structured community which has received ordained ministries with the mission of sanctifying, teaching, and governing. The exercise of this mission has to be carried out through the gospel logic of love and service, and, thanks to these ministries, the Church remains faithful to the apostolic tradition, to true teaching, and to catholicity. In regard to its life and mission, the Church is enriched with gifts and charismas from the Spirit that the ministry of the bishops has the duty to discern and, if deemed genuine, to approve, not dampening authentic charisms, but guarding them.

Thus we see that the Church is not a democracy nor does it function along such criteria. The contents of the Church’s mission and its way of fulfilling it do not come from the will of those who belong to it, whether by majority or consensus, but from Christ himself and from the bi-millennial tradition of the Church, made deeper through the teaching of its doctrine and the sanctity of its sons and daughters.

On the basis of these accrued experiences, we Bishops of Cuba recognize that the difficulties lived by the Church in our country have strengthened the unity among all of its members. It is an appreciable gift of God which we are grateful for and which we protect when faced with disintegrating influences such as attempts to manipulate groups of different tendencies within the Church, to take on a political role alien to the Church’s nature and mission, as well as a sort of thinking that considers theology as an instrument of liberation for this world, aiming to bring about social changes through confrontation.

IV. The Public Presence of the Church

The Church’s public presence and its service to society are determined according to the Church’s nature and mission: what the Church ought to contribute, how Christians should behave, and how the Church should relate to the State.

1. The Service of the Church to Cuban Society
The Church … “is in the world and has its life and activity there . . . it travels the same journey as all mankind and shares the same earthly lot with the world,” and still more, “it is to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society” ( Gaudium et Spes 40). “Christ did not bequeath to the Church a mission in the political, economic or social order: the purpose he assigned to it was a religious one” ( Gaudium et Spes, 42). Therefore the Church should not identify itself with any political party nor seem like one; nor is it an economic-financial organization for equitably distributing the assets of production, nor chiefly a welfare entity for society’s sick and destitute. Its mission is religious and must be the proclamation of one God, Creator of all, and of his project of abundant life for all people and for all creation, as revealed in Jesus Christ. But this proclamation necessarily affects the political and social organization where human life is played out. Therefore, this Christian faith, or personal encounter with God revealed in Jesus Christ, “throws a new light on all things and makes known the full ideal which God has set for man, thus guiding the mind towards solutions which are fully human” ( Gaudium et Spes, 11).

“The human person is the beginning, the subject, and the object of every social organization” ( Gaudium et Spes, 25). “The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system. It is at once the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person” ( Gaudium et Spes, 76).

Supported, then, by these great truths of faith and by the Social Doctrine of the Church, we, the bishops of Cuba, believe that, for the adequate development of the human person, there must be favored the exercise of freedom, fraternal relations, and the search for what transcends the human being. There will not be a healthy society if these three dimensions of the human person are not inseparably promoted and guaranteed.

Since this development is achieved only within a social fabric, within this same fabric human rights, which are common aspirations of the future that are being forged as a secular ethic, must be guaranteed. By now the rights of human beings and of peoples have been well formulated: the right to life, liberty, and self-determination; rights that encompass the family and individuals; political rights to freedom of expression, of association, of movement, etc., and social rights to education and medical assistance (Cf. Pacem in Terris, 4). For this purpose we recall the text of the Synod of Bishops of 1971: “The whole Church, and with it the bishops and priests according to their responsibilities, must choose an adequate way of action when the defense of the fundamental rights of people are at stake, promoting the cause of justice and of peace, using means clearly in accord with the gospel.”

God wants a full life for all his children, and he has made the sufferings and aspirations of all his own, especially those of the poor and rejected. Jesus Christ was not indifferent to human suffering: to pain, to sickness, to death, or to the unjust situations that damage the dignity of man, such as: hunger, lack of freedom, abuse of power, and other economic or political conditions. His answer to these situations was love, to the extent of giving his life on the cross. To this service in love the Church is also summoned: this is the good that it can and must provide to society.

Now, then, “it is only in freedom that man can turn himself towards what is good. The people of our time prize freedom very highly and strive eagerly for it. In this they are right. . . for that which is truly freedom is an exceptional sign of the image of God in man. . .human dignity, therefore, requires man to act out of conscience and free choice” ( Gaudium et Spes 17). Therefore, Christians are asked to have a responsible and coherent attitude that favors the progress of human and Christian liberty, keeping in mind the words of the Lord: ”The truth will set you free” (John 8, 32).

This responsible attitude is more than ever necessary in our country when the problems are so many and so large that we do not know what to do or when what is done does not have the hoped for result. The option that then presents itself most forcefully is that of escape, either to another country, or toward evasions of responsibility, such as alcohol, drugs, and even suicide, or towards a pretense of accommodating the demands imposed by circumstances. Only through prayer, the meditation on the Word of God, the application of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and a shared and serene reflection can the true freedom of the children of God be exercised.

2. Political Commitment of Christians
In the minds of many, the political refers directly to the governmental structure, symbol of power; that is why this definition is given to movements or groups that, with different ideologies, hold power or strive to obtain it. But originally “political,” from “polis”, means the public sphere where the interests of all citizens as a social whole are articulated, the space for the development of freedom among human beings “in order to secure the common good” ( Gaudium et Spes 74).

Understanding politics in the first sense, the mission of the church is not political; its mission is not to intervene directly in the exercise of civil power or in the structures of opposition to that power, or to back one or another party, or recommend a candidate or a party to vote for during an election. In the political debate of parties that confront one another or join in programmatic or strategic alliances, the Church must be neutral, although it is not neutral in its ethical calling to ensure that the rights of all are respected in that debate.

This being so for the ecclesial entity, the lay Christians who constitute this entity have the freedom of a political option in one sense or another, so that they make their choice, keeping as their objective the coming of the reign of God. This objective includes respect for human rights, for basic values that must be protected, for honesty in the handling of public funds, etc.

Understanding politics in the second sense, as the public sphere where the interests of all citizens are joined together to obtain the common good, the Church has an unavoidable public presence in the political and should intervene when in the exercise of power, either in the economic or political field, the basic rights of human beings are attacked. It can and must, through the Gospel and with its Social Doctrine, illuminate not only the so-called “high politics,” but also the exercise of political power, respecting the just autonomy of that area. And it must do this by virtue of its religious mission, since “by his incarnation, he, the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man” ( Gaudium et Spes, 22), who only develops within a sociopolitical society.

3. Church-State Relations
We see that the concept that the Cuban State has of the Church seems not to understand its true nature and mission. The Church is considered ally or enemy, without any alternative, according to a presupposed unchangeable ideology that, only because of temporary convenience, may be treated with considerable courtesy at times and little tolerance at others.

For this purpose, it is important to remember the words of Pope John Paul II during the Mass celebrated at the on January 25, 1998: “The State, far from all fanaticism or extreme secularism, must promote a fair social climate and adequate legislation to allow each person and every denomination to live its faith freely, to express it in the areas of public life, and should have the means and space sufficient to offer its spiritual, moral, and civic riches to the life of the nation.”

We have the impression that in our country there is a subtle struggle against the Church, that it is treated as a private entity or as a marginal entity that might drain force or energy away from the revolution. The existence of an Office for Attention to Religious Affairs, under the Central Committee of the Communist Party, is often seen as an instance of control to limit the Church’s evangelical work and not as an appropriate entity to facilitate, in dialogue, the review and solution of matters of common interest.

Although the mission of the Church, as was already said, is not political, its bishops and its institutions inevitably have a social role to play. The Catholic Church is present in the midst of society, the same as other religious confessions. It has the right to a specific statute to allow it to fulfill its mission; fulfilling this right is not a privilege. Therefore, it is hardly realistic and could even constitute a kind of empty spiritualism, for the Church to be totally separated from the public authorities, for it would put aside the essential relations that all social groups are obliged to maintain with the political society and its authorities.

The independence necessary for the pastoral work of the Church cannot be conceived as a rejection of dialogue and structured contacts with society’s authorities. We Bishops of Cuba repeat that the mission entrusted by Christ to his Church is not of the political order nor is it inspired by a concern to achieve a public presence that functions through the logic of power. It is important to make this very clear, since there are those who want the Church to be an opposition party and others who want it to be domesticated by the existing political regime. So, how can contact be kept with the authorities without being absorbed by them? How can the Church relate to the powers and yet appear totally free to all? We must keep our eyes open to reality, listen patiently to others and, above all, bring evangelical healing to the heart so as not to confuse prudence with the fear of losing false securities, nor prophetic boldness with rash imprudence.

In this context, the words of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of His Holiness of April 30 of this year are charged with particular importance when he restated the value of dialogue as a means for greater comprehension in the solution of conflicts. Referring to our reality, Cardinal Sodano said: We shall continue this dialogue. Never shall the dialogue be interrupted because in every man there is basis for conversation ... even when it appears to be a dialogue without hope.”

The Church in Cuba has always said that, in this revolutionary stage, it hopes against hope and recognizes in dialogue the way and manner that could best contribute to the service of the people of which it is a part. We know that our proposal for constructive and reconciled dialogue among the Cubans is not well received, either by the authorities of the country or by some Cubans living abroad. The Church has no political group interests because it is not aligned politically with either the government or the opposition. That is the reason why we urge all Cubans, for the good of Cuba, to overcome the common temptation to overcome the other and to seek the solution to our conflicts through responsible dialogue among all of us

The Church in Cuba has had to remain firm and united in order to maintain its independence from the power of those who govern and from those who challenge that power. This does not mean that the Church is indifferent to the problems of the Cuban people, their hardships, their needs, and their concerns. The Church cannot be neutral when faced with people’s lack of freedom or when political participation is not given to the citizens in accord with their own personal choices. The Church does not subscribe to this or that project, but it recognizes the value of citizens, capable of free choice, to be able to follow the social plan that they desire.

V. Some Imperatives for Renewal

In view of the situation of Cuban society and of the ecclesial community, we point out some problems and some proposals that require special attention in order to open up roads to the future.

1. Religious Freedom
The changes that have taken place in the world, many of them brought about by the decline of ideologies, have not substantially changed the status of religious freedom in our country. The concept of religious freedom continues to be restricted to the area of worship, that is, the relation of the Christian with God, but not in the full and adequate sense of the presence of the Church in the society. It is simply freedom of worship.

The community of Christ’s disciples requires by its very nature a public presence in society. In the face of the tendencies of modern laicism and of other ideologies that seek to push the Church out of public life, what this is about is not only that the Church’s existence should be recognized socially and legally but that its presence in society should be one of evangelical significance, as Fr. Felix Varela said, “for the good of people not only in the spiritual but also in the temporal.”

Respect for religious freedom includes providing for the social participation of Christians in their work life, their professional and political life, with the possibility of freely propagating and proposing to others their faith, as well as their Christian ethic and its social implications.

Further, respect for religious freedom implies, among other things, the recognition of the right of the Church to build churches, the enabling of priests and other religious personnel who want to help in the work of evangelization to enter our country, the free and normal access of the Church to the media, and the freedom to continue the Church’s natural presence in the field of education.

2. Unity of the Christian People

To carry out our mission, we must first know and feel ourselves to be united in the one Church of the Lord that has a single task for all: to proclaim and establish the reign of Christ in the world. Unity in a shared love is the witness to the reign of God that the Catholic Church has given in our country. This unity we cannot consider as a force confronting anyone, but as a testimony of fidelity to Christ who ordered us to be one as he and the Father are one.

In Cuba, the unity of the Church, cultivated and protected as a virtue that flows from the same faith and from Christian charity, is also a necessity for preserving Catholic identity and for the fruitfulness of its mission. This communion among bishops, priests, deacons, religious men and women and lay persons has been a gift for which we thank the Lord and a task that should be visibly maintained for all our Cuban brothers and sisters, both within Cuba and abroad.

We see as a value the right to a healthy pluralism and its practice in matters of the different charisms among Christians, in their groups, associations, and movements. However, in that which concerns the nature of the Church, its hierarchical structure, and the mission received from Christ, the unity of Catholic faith must be always put forth clearly.

We would like to remind all Catholics that they should recognize their Bishops as the first interlocutors of the dialogue that is the proper role of the Church both with the civil authorities and with such groups that can contribute to overcoming the difficulties that affect our society, and accept guidance of their pastors as the expression of God’s will for the Christian community.

3. Commitment of the Christian People in the Reconciliation of Society
The Catholic Church considers the commitment in favor of all of our Cuban brothers and sisters to be an urgent moral imperative. The evidence of the negative elements in present day Cuban society we see not as a challenge of one power to another, but as the expression that comes out of a responsibility with its roots in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, showing clearly a firm and persevering determination to contribute to the common good, accepting as well the possible conflicts and failures.

As Christ’s witness and because of its own vocation and fidelity to its mission, the Church must work for reconciliation and take on the inconveniences that this task implies. Thus, we Bishops of Cuba have proposed to develop a pastoral of reconciliation aiming to heal the historic wounds that exist in our people.

We believe it legitimate and just, in order to work towards the future reconciliation of all Cubans, to root out from among us all feelings of hatred. In every path to reconciliation we must take into account our compatriots who live abroad. We make ours the words of the Holy Father, addressed to the bishops at the Havana archdiocesan center on January 25, 1998: “I know that in your pastoral care you have not neglected those who, because of various circumstances, have left the country, but feel that they are children of Cuba. To the extent that they consider themselves Cuban, they must collaborate as well, serenely and with a constructive and respectful spirit, in the progress of the Nation, avoiding useless confrontations and promoting a climate of positive dialogue and mutual understanding.”

4. Building Hope

Pope John Paul II came to Cuba as a “Messenger of Truth and Hope.” Paradoxically, since then, we feel that the hope of our people has progressively waned. For the love of this nation in which we were born and carry within our hearts, whose difficulties, failures and doubts are ours as well, we Bishops of Cuba invite all Christians to embrace the urgent call of Jesus Christ to be witnesses in the midst of our people. Only thus can overcome adversities and build the future. From our Christian faith this commitment is possible up to its final consequences only if we see with the eyes of faith, trusting in the promises of God, who loves us. This promise assures us that our future shall be visited not by misery, but by grace. It is the confidence that, as the Lord says, overcomes the world (1 Jn 4).

VI. Conclusion

We would not want to end our Theological-Pastoral Instruction without showing the appreciation of the Church in Cuba for the support that the Holy See has consistently given it. We reaffirm our unalterable communion with the See of Peter and, especially, with the person of the Holy Father, to whom we pay homage of grateful obedience for the extraordinary exercise of his ministry as Universal Pastor, as visible link of the unity of the Catholic Church in the world.

For his part, His Holiness John Paul II, has always shown his deep love, his closeness and his profound and sure awareness of the situation of Cuba and that of the Cuban Catholics, on which the special historic circumstances that he himself had to live in his own country have weighed heavily.

We appreciate the solidarity of the Catholic Church in Europe, the United States, and in Latin America, and their interest in helping the mission of the Church in Cuba to develop with the same freedom and possibilities as it has in the other Christian countries. In our prayers to our Patroness, we have kept in mind the pastors and the faithful of those churches.

Together with the Holy Father, we recognize that ”for Cubans, the Christian soul constitutes the most valuable treasure and surest guarantee of full development under the sign of authentic freedom and of peace” (John Paul II in Rome upon his return from Cuba, January 28, 1998).

We urge all Catholics to develop, in complete faithfulness to the Truth, the gospel coherence between faith and life, between what is thought and said and done in all aspects of personal and social being. To fulfill these demands, we invite all to live an intensely authentic Christian spirituality, nourished by the Gospel and the Eucharist, with persevering prayer that makes our union with God ever stronger.

With this Theological-Pastoral Instruction, we reaffirm that the Church in Cuba hopes with love. We, therefore, want to instill hope and trust in the soul of all Catholics and of all Cubans. May “God enlighten the eyes of our heart so that we can recognize the hope to which he calls us” (Eph 1,18). With filial devotion, we invoke the blessed name of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. We place ourselves under her maternal protection. She, as a loving Mother, is always looking out for the true good of us all, her beloved children. To you, our Mother, we humbly and openly offer the fruits of our meditation. Strengthened in this hope, let us all work with patience, self-denial and love, all for the present and future good of our Country.

In Christ, the Supreme Pastor, we, the Bishops of Cuba, bless you.
September 8, 2003
Feast of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Patroness of Cuba



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