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Pope Francis Won’t Be Pleasing Any One Side in Cuba

Pope Francis Won’t Be Pleasing Any One Side in Cuba
September 14, 2015
By Jose Jasan Nieves OnCuba

HAVANA TIMES — A Jesuit priest has a rather daring and provocative
thesis regarding the Pope’s imminent visit to Cuba: Francis will
frustrate many of the expectations of those who await his tour of the

“The government may be expecting his blessing for everything it is doing
now, while those in the Church who do not sympathize with the government
are likely expecting him to condemn Cuba’s political system. Francisco
isn’t going to do either,” claims father Alberto Garcia, member of the
Compañia de Jesus for more than 40 years, a priest who, following a long
journey across the United States, the Dominican Republic and ,
was repatriated in Cuba a decade ago.

Since then, he has worked with Catholic communities and promoted
spiritual and thought exercises around the country. One is as likely to
find him working with his congregation in Havana’s neighborhood of
Vedado as at a gathering of social actors in Matanzas, sitting next to a
Baptist pastor.

“Of his own free will, Pope Francis comes to speak to a people who are
hurt and to offer them words of consolation. He comes to speak on behalf
of hope,” he points out.

“Bergoglio’s appointment was a surprise for us Jesuits. Many of us had
reservations at first, because he hadn’t faired too well as a provincial
delegate in Argentina. Our initial reservations vanished immediately,
almost as soon as, instead of blessing the people at San Pedro Square,
he asked that the people give him their blessing,” father Garcia explains.

According to the priest, Francisco is leading a very long and complex
struggle: “He has a curia of very conservative cardinals and he’s
fighting to give the Church its human face again. His aim is very
clearly illustrated in his statement that pastors ought to smell of
sheep (…) I am very hopeful, because the Church needed this, but I am
also very scared, because he could get in the way of a bullet any time.
He’s stepped on some feet that had never been stepped on before. He’s
messed with the whole of the Vatican mob, has defied powers that could
do him in at any moment,” the prelate maintains.

These tensions within Catholicism also find in Cuba. Here,
the contradictions are found between those who interact with the Cuban
government, headed by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and the refusal to
legitimate the socialist project, a posture secretly maintained by some
bishops and priests. According to Alberto, we should not expect the Pope
to assume a balanced stance towards these conflicts.

“No activity undertaken by a high Church official like him is devoid of
a political connotation, but this is not a political visit. Pope Francis
comes as a messenger of mercy, as a pastor visiting the people of Cuba
who delivers a message of hope. The political impact of this will be
reflected in the hope he is able to give people, something which will
unleash the impulse for change among those who can have an impact on
society, and within the Church, later,” he predicts.

That’s why this Havana priest shares in the argument advanced by Pope
Benedict XVI in his message to Cardinal Ortega (a statement he shared
during his unexpected interview on Cuban television back in 2012): “The
Church isn’t here to overthrow governments.”

“The aim of the Church is to move people’s consciences, so that they
will work in favor of justice and fraternity. The Church will be doing
its job properly when it becomes a thorn on the chair of anyone who
would sit down and say: “we’ve done all we can.” While there is still
injustice, hunger and lack of , the Church must be a source of

Father Alberto aspires to meet with the first Latin American Pope at
Havana’s Reina church, where he is expected to stop on his way to the
Palacio de la Revolucion and the Cathedral. “It was the residence of
Cuba’s Jesuits for a very long time, until the time the Jesuits were
expelled on the Covadonga ship. Today, it is the main Jesuit-run
church,” he explains.

The number of Jesuit priests in Cuba is not over thirty. A little more
than half of them are Cubans and, even though they offered their
services at parish temples almost exclusively for a very long time,
today they have gone back to the task of “accompanying people
spiritually,” something which sets their congregation apart from all
others in the Catholic world.

Source: Pope Francis Won’t Be Pleasing Any One Side in Cuba – Havana –

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