Pope Francis said mass before a huge crowd in Havana’s Revolutionary Square, the site of many 4 and 5 hour harangues by Fidel Castro back in the day. It has always been considered the political center of Cuba and today, Francis eschewed politics for the pastoral. He made a vague reference to avoiding “ideology” when carrying out one’s Christian duty to care for the poor, but beyond that, the pope was silent.
Was this cowardly? We can only compare the this with the behavior of one other pope — John Paul II. In 1979, John Paul visited his native Poland and over the next 9 days sealed the fate of the communist government, although it took a decade for the fall to occur.
John Paul’s exhortations to the faithful to believe in their future and his warnings to the government to stop oppressing the people startled the world and made the Soviets extremely nervous.
But Francis apparently is saving his criticism for the American government. I wonder if he said anything to authorities after they arrested 3 dissidents prior to his mass or the 50 protesters detained in the previous week.
Babalu Blog from an AFP dispatch:
Three dissidents opposed to Cuba’s communist regime were arrested Sunday as they approached Pope Francis shouting “Freedom!” when he arrived to deliver mass on Revolution Square in Havana.
An AFP photographer said the activists — two men and a women — yelled anti-government slogans and resisted by falling to the ground as plainclothes agents arrested them when they tried to get near the white popemobile carrying Francis to the mass, the largest event of his trip to Cuba.
The pope, who was busy grasping the outstretched hands of well-wishers on the other side of his vehicle, did not appear to notice the incident.
The dissidents belong to the Cuban Patriotic Union, said its leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer.
“They went to the square to condemn repression,” he told AFP.
He said there were in fact four activists arrested, two men and two women, and that they were taken to a nearby police station.
In recent years, Cuban authorities have typically released dissidents after a few hours following their arrest.
The one-party communist state bans opposition groups and routinely arrests dissidents who try to protest.
Several leading dissidents have criticized the pope for turning a deaf ear to their requests to meet with him during his visit.
You long for a pope with the clarity to see his mission as a global effort for freedom. The poor must be cared for and given opportunities to escape poverty, but what’s the best way to accomplish that? Free people operating free markets in a free country will do more to end poverty than all the ill-tempered rants against capitalism of a quasi-Marxist pope put together.
The pope will arrive in America on Tuesday. It should be an interesting visit.