Change Comes to Cuba: Reflections on the Papal Visit

By Law, Bernard Francis | Harvard International Review, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Change Comes to Cuba: Reflections on the Papal Visit


Law, Bernard Francis, Harvard International Review


BY HIS EMINENCE BERNARD

CARDINAL LAW

Archbishop of Boston

Since my return from the Papal visit to Cuba, I have often been asked if change might now come to the island. But change has already come.

It was once thought that only the departure of Fidel Castro would mark the beginnings of any substantive change. The events of the past year clearly demonstrate that this belief was mistaken. Any blueprint for a shift in policy that demands new leadership in another country is too rigid a starting point--and depending on the means willing to be used to achieve that departure, could lack a moral claim. I do not mean to condone Cuba's dismal human rights abuse record, but the fact remains that a dramatic transformation has occurred within the past twelve months in the area of religious liberty. This could not have occurred without the active approval of President Castro, who has promoted, rather than obstructed, what is now happening in Cuba.

It is not the visit alone, stunning though it is, which reflects change; events leading up to the visit must also be acknowledged. Some in Cuba place a great emphasis on the private audience accorded Fidel Castro by Pope John Paul II. However, there was also a mixed commission of government and Church officials responsible for planning the Papal visit, which constituted a novel relationship. The Church was also allowed to engage in a door-to-door nationwide mission to prepare Cubans for the Papal visit. Religious processions were permitted, as were some outside religious celebrations. The ban placed on the use of the public media by the Church was lifted modestly, by allowing an address by the Archbishop of Havana, Jaime Cardinal Ortega and the Masses of the Holy Father to be televised live nationally. Furthermore, long before the visit was planned, the Cuban Catholic Church's charity arm, CARITAS Cuba, was organizing various social service activities. While its work is still narrowly circumscribed, the right of the Catholic Church to provide organized social service has been recognized. In addition, the number of visas issued has increased dramatically, and therefore there is no longer a backlog of visa requests by foreign clergy and other Church workers. The Cuban government could not have been more obliging and welcoming.

If we are to measure change realistically, it must be measured against the past. Soon after Castro came to power, Church property was confiscated, Catholic schools and other institutional works were closed, and hundreds of Church personnel were forced to depart or, some would argue, exiled. Labor camps were also established which number among their alumni the present Cardinal Archbishop of Havana. The justification for these policies was an official version of history, which deconstructed the study of the past to serve an ideological end.

For me, the past of the Church in Cuba began in 1984. For the last fourteen years, I have been in continual contact with the Church in Cuba. In an earlier visit to Cuba, I objected to President Castro concerning the intimidating practices of the omnipresent Committees of the Revolution. These watchdogs of Marxist orthodoxy considered baptisms, the visit of a priest or regular attendance at Mass to be subversive. Castro argued that the state did allow for religious freedom, but that it was powerless to counter the widespread anti-Church sentiment of the people borne of what he described as the Church's oppressive and sinful past. During the past fourteen years there have been sporadic efforts on the part of the Cuban government to marginalize the Church by suggesting that Cuban bishops are "counter-revolutionary," meaning unpatriotic and subversive.

Against that historical background, focus on Havana, Sunday, January 25, 1998. The Plaza of the Revolution has a new face: a heroic-sized painting on the facade of the national library portrays Jesus in the familiar style of the Sacred Heart. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Change Comes to Cuba: Reflections on the Papal Visit
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.