By: BishopGerald Kicanas, Chair, Catholic Relief Services' Board of Directors
month, I have the privilege of traveling with several other brother bishops
from the United States to join our Holy Father on his visit to Cuba. Pope
Benedict XVI follows in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II, the
first pontiff to visit Cuba, in 1998. This time, Our Holy Father comes to Cuba
as a "Pilgrim of Charity" to celebrate with the Church in Cuba the
400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of Our Lady of Charity of El
Benedict is reaching out to an often isolated island nation that has a history
of discord with our country. His presence in Cuba will send a message that we
are all one human family, called to live in peace, despite our political
years, the Church in the United States has quietly reached out to the Cuban
people through the humanitarian work of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and to
the Church in Cuba through the Collection for the Church in Latin America. I
serve as Chairman of the Board of CRS and know a little of the fellowship
between CRS and the Church in Cuba.
often Cuba has borne the brunt of the Atlantic hurricane season. CRS has stood
with its Church partner, Caritas Cubana, with the shipment of food, medicine
and other emergency supplies. Caritas Cubana also supports some of society's
most vulnerable such as the elderly and children with disabilities. CRS has
quietly but consistently strengthened its ability to meet the needs of these
groups through heartfelt acts of charity.
For me the
spirit of this Cuban and American partnership are reflected in the words of
Mario Gonzalez, the director of Caritas Cubana in Camaguey. In 2006, this part
of the island was hit by severe flooding and CRS worked with funds from
Archdiocese of Indianapolis to ship vital supplies. "Only God knows how deeply
grateful we are for this gesture of brotherhood from those sisters and brothers
who, although far from us, are united with us through the same faith and love of
Jesus Christ," Gonzalez said at that time.
that the Holy Father's visit to Cuba will strengthen these bonds. Please share
my prayer that from the beginnings in humanitarian outreach Cuban and U.S.
Catholics come to more closely share bonds of friendship, enrich each other's
lives and faith, and come to enjoy the openness that good neighbors are called