By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said that during his recent journey to Mexico
and Cuba, he experienced "unforgettable days of joy and hope."
went as "a witness of Jesus Christ," it was also an opportune
occasion to call for reform, especially in allowing greater religious freedom,
weekly general audience April 4 in St. Peter's Square, the pope told an
estimated 11,000 pilgrims and visitors about his March 23-28 visit.
reminded everyone that Cuba and the world need change," he said.
real change will come about "only if everyone opens up to the whole truth
about mankind -- a binding requirement in order to achieve liberty -- and
decides to cultivate in their lives reconciliation and brotherhood, building
their life on Jesus Christ," he said.
Jesus "can dispel the darkness of error, helping us conquer evil and all
that oppresses us," the pope said.
church does not seek to secure any special privileges for itself, he said, just
the freedom to be able to preach and celebrate one's faith even in the public
sphere and "bring the Gospel message of hope and peace to every part of
he appreciated all that has been done up to now by Cuban authorities but that
he emphasized it was necessary to continue on this path of allowing "ever
fuller religious freedom."
progress, he said, will require "an effort of sincere collaboration and
patient dialogue for the good of the country."
visit to Cuba was also meant as a sign of support for the mission of the church
there: "to proclaim the Gospel with joy despite the lack of means and
difficulties still left to overcome so that religion may carry out its
spiritual and educative service in the public realm," he said.
he wanted to assure the people there that "the pope carries in his heart
the worries and hopes of all Cubans, especially those who suffer because of
restrictions on freedom."
Benedict said his goal of the trip had been to offer courage and hope to the
church in all of Latin America.
repeated the importance of religious freedom, he said, because "when God
is excluded, the world turns into an inhospitable place for mankind."
recalled the joy and enthusiasm of the people who welcomed him and the show of
faith at many of the liturgical events.
encouraged the Mexican people to let their deep Christian roots inspire their
efforts to overcome violence and to work for a better future," he said.
Cuba, "I prayed for a rebirth of faith, openness to God's love and respect
for the truth about our human dignity and freedom revealed in Christ," he
at the audience were about 3,000 students from more than 200 universities all
over the world participating in the Opus Dei-run UNIV conference.
told the students he hoped their pilgrimage to Rome would "bear spiritual
fruit in a deeper love of Christ and his church."
of the UNIV forum were to give the pope a letter, written on behalf of the
conference participants, thanking the pope for traveling to Latin America.
you for having transmitted your courage and optimism to the people of our
generation," the letter said. "Thank you for that youthful spirit
which leads you to undertake trips like these to bring the person of Christ
closer to us."
—from Catholic News Service