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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Pope Benedict XVI said that during his recent journey to Mexico and Cuba, he experienced "unforgettable days of joy and hope."
While he went as "a witness of Jesus Christ," it was also an opportune occasion to call for reform, especially in allowing greater religious freedom, he said.
At his 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.
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Beneath looming images of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and the Virgin Mary, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday stood in Revolution Square here, the heart of the Castro government, and issued a ringing call for “authentic freedom” in what is consistently ranked as one of the most repressive nations on earth.
“The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom,” Benedict said in his homily at an outdoor Mass here, a line greeted by smiles from some in the crowd. “Many, however, prefer shortcuts, trying to avoid this task.”
The Mass was the culmination of a three-day visit to Cuba meant to shore up support for the Roman Catholic Church here. With President Raúl Castro sitting in the front row — and a day after a top Cuban official said that Cuba would not pursue political change any time soon — Benedict also decried “those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in ‘their truth,’ and try to impose it on others.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Caribbean Cuba * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI
In interviews at three churches in the capital, parishioners complained — openly, and a lot — about the economy and voiced a desire to see change come to the island. But regarding the treatment of Catholics, they were content.
“We’re in a state of respect now. We are a normal part of life. It no longer matters if you are Catholic,” said Susana Sanchez, 46, who recalled that “in the first years of the revolution, my generation, the young moved away from the church, but they have been coming back. It’s a space to grow spiritually, to fill a need.”
Santiago Martinez, one of three priests serving the San Juan Bosco church nearby, said that even members of the all-powerful Communist Party attend Mass, and so do government bureaucrats, who in a previous generation would have been branded counterrevolutionaries for bowing their heads at the altar.
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First of all, let us see what the Incarnation means. In the Gospel of Saint Luke we heard the words of the angel to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). In Mary, the Son of God is made man, fulfilling in this way the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel, which means ‘God-with-us’” (Is 7:14). Jesus, the Word made flesh, is truly God-with-us, who has come to live among us and to share our human condition. The Apostle Saint John expresses it in the following way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). The expression, “became flesh” points to our human reality in most concrete and tangible way. In Christ, God has truly come into the world, he has entered into our history, he has set his dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings that the world may truly become a home worthy of humanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the “Yes” to the love between God and humanity who responds to him. Mary did so as the first fruit of believers with her unreserved “Yes” to the Lord.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * International News & Commentary Caribbean Cuba * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI
Cuba remains an island where the Roman Catholic church has a weak and insubstantial hold. Afro-Cuban religions – Santería, Palo Monte and Abakuá – come top of the popularity contest among the great mass of the people, followed almost certainly by a variety of Protestants sects imported from the United States over a century ago.
The Roman Catholic church, an almost exclusively urban phenomenon run by Spanish priests over most of its existence, comes a poor third, although the pope will certainly be welcomed by large crowds, always happy to witness a great state-spectacle. He will visit the ugly shrine at El Cobre, outside Santiago de Cuba, of the Virgin of Charity, a saintly national heroine variously endorsed over time by Indians, blacks and whites, and celebrated by both Catholics and Afro-Cuban enthusiasts.
The real challenge facing the Roman Catholic church, both in Cuba and in the rest of Latin America, is the tremendous growth in recent decades of evangelical Protestantism.
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I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen them in the hope which is born of the presence of God’s love in our lives. I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be, their sufferings and their joys, their concerns and their noblest desires, those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need.
Many parts of the world today are experiencing a time of particular economic difficulty, that not a few people regard as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with noble and strong values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person.
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In 1998 Pope John Paul II visited Cuba, prompting outsiders to await a political opening of the kind that brought down communism in his native Poland. Sadly, even two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cuba remains one of the handful of countries around the world where communism lives on. Illness forced Fidel Castro to step down in 2006, but his slightly younger brother, Raúl, is in charge, flanked by a cohort of elderly Stalinists. When Pope Benedict XVI visits the island next week, expectations will be more muted.
Yet a momentous change has begun in Cuba in the meantime. The country has started on the road towards capitalism; and that will have big implications for the United States and the rest of Latin America.
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A week before Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba, a U.S. government panel on religious freedom has alleged "serious" violations on the island, including arrests of pastors and "pressure to prohibit democracy and human rights activists" from church activities.
The violations also include government "interference in church affairs" and controls on "religious belief and practices through surveillance and legal restrictions," said the annual report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
"Serious religious freedom violations continue in Cuba despite some improvements," noted the report, issued Wednesday, which also listed a number of arrests and pressures on individual religious leaders, all of them Protestant pastors.
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[BOB] ABERNETHY: For the ordinary Cubans, after all these years of official atheism by the state, persecution of religion in Cuba, are the ordinary Cubans wanting to have, be able to worship again? Are they wanting to be religious again?
[PATRICIA] ZAPOR: Well, Cubans want all sorts of freedoms, religious freedom among them. Atheism officially went away in 1992, and since then the Catholic Church has been creating more space for itself, and in ways that are trying to reach out to more Catholics, more of the general population of Cuba, and people want to participate in these things. There’s an energy.
ABERNETHY: But I think it’s, what, just a little over half of people who identify themselves as Catholics, and five percent of them only who go to Mass.
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Nearly 750 Cuban activists have signed a letter to Pope Benedict XVI warning that his planned visit to Cuba will "send a message to the oppressors that they can continue" to abuse Catholic opponents, dissidents reported Thursday.
"We would be very happy to receive you in our country, if the message of faith, love and hope that you could bring us also would serve to halt the repression against those who want to go to church," the letter said.
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Over the past half-century, Fidel and Raul Castro have ensured — through exile, purges and execution — that no political figure or generation has emerged as their obvious successors. Time and again, the brothers have stacked the ruling Cuban Communist Party with gray hard-liners nearly as old as they are, determined to preserve their revolutionary legacy.
Given this reality, post-Castro Cuba will need someone trusted by all segments of society to help shepherd this nation into a new era, without bloodshed or upheaval. Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana, is that man. The son of a sugar mill worker, Ortega is uniquely equipped to fill any power vacuum.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Caribbean Cuba * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
On a warm and windy afternoon, the bishop of Cuba is inspecting tomatoes. Dressed in a crisp purple shirt, she bends into a garden patch and finds a tomato as big as her hand. She weighs it, plucks it, and holds it up—the first fruit of a new crop.
This community garden in Itabo, Cuba, is second home to Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio, Cuba's first female diocesan bishop. Before her installation in November 2010, she led this parish of Santa Maria Virgen for 22 years.
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Faith leaders with long-term ties to Cuban organizations are hailing a change in White House policy that reduces limits on religious travel to the island nation.
The White House announced Friday (Jan. 14) that President Obama had directed changes that include permitting religious organizations to sponsor trips through a general license. The administration also will create a general license that permits remittances to religious institutions in Cuba that support religious activities.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Office of the President President Barack Obama * International News & Commentary Caribbean Cuba
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Raúl Castro, Cuba’s president, has given a nod to the Roman Catholic Church’s desire to play a larger role in solving the communist-run island’s problems, possibly opening the way for the release of political prisoners, leading prelates said, in what experts and diplomats termed his most significant political move since replacing his brother Fidel in early 2008.
Mr Castro met for more than four hours with Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Bishop Dionisio Garcia of Santiago de Cuba, the head of the Conference of Bishops. The last such meeting took place five years ago when Fidel Castro was still in power.
By the weekend the government had informed the church that the prisoners would be moved from far-off locations to jails in their home provinces, and any ill inmates to hospital, according to dissidents and church sources.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Prison/Prison Ministry Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Caribbean Cuba * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
Requiring a two-thirds majority when electing a bishop has sometimes short-circuited episcopal elections in North America. For the Episcopal Church of Cuba, that high electoral standard has helped prevent a new bishop’s election for 20 years.
On Sept. 5, a special synod of the diocese failed to elect a new bishop from among three candidates, including the Rev. Jose Angel Gutierrez, rector of San Lucas, Ciego de Avila, and the Rev. Emilio Martin, rector of San Francisco de Asis, Cardenas. Frs. Gutierrez and Martin were both on the ballot when Cuba tried to elect a bishop in June.
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