Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ratzinger in Cuba: Not my fault

The Pope has several duties some administrative, some political, some related to diplomacy as head of the Vatican State, but the fundamental one is to represent the catholic faith and Catholics in this world. His inspiration must be the work, life and message of Christ in this earth. Some of the strongest messages of Christ are solidarity, justice and the work of the have not.

In a global world leaders must be responsible to their constituencies, in the case of a Pope, he must be accountable to the Catholics.

In his recent trip to Cuba we saw the political Pope and maybe the representative of the Vatican, but not the voice of Christ and not my voice as Catholic. Even when the Vatican received several request to the Pope for a more engaged commitment with political prisoners and persecuted in Cuba and several request for him to meet with the ladies in white and other opposition leaders as a sign of support, and even when he had the opportunity to deliver a strong message to the autocrats in Cuba, Mr. Ratzinger or his advisers just ignored those voices.

Even when we can consider the other cheek approach and forgiven as a fundamental part of the faith, his meetings with killers, criminals and human right violators, like Raul Castro, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez it is not comprehensible. You can pardon someone willing to change but you cannot pardon a killer in the middle of a massacre or a human right violator if he doesn’t have the intention to change. After insulting and persecuting systematically catholic priests and the catholic faith in Venezuela, now Hugo Chavez, because he is sick and need a miracle, was willing to bend his knees to the Pope. But as in Cuba like in Venezuela the political prisoners remain in jail, some of them also sick but for them Mr. Chavez doesn’t seem to think that they also deserve compassion. We can ask Mr. Chavez’s personal political prisoner, judge Maria de Lourdes Afiuni, what she think about the Venezuela’s regime treatment or the “humanitarian” behavior of the autocrat in power. According to the Venezuela’s journalist Nelson Bocaranda Sardi the Pope received Hugo Chavez, the Vatican denied this information, but only the Pope and Chavez know the truth. If that is true and the Pope had time for Chavez and time for Fidel but he didn’t care about the persecuted it is just the wrong message.

2006 meeting of the Pope with Hugo Chavez

And what is the magic of the photo with Fidel Castro?, an aging assassin. Fidel became part of Cuba’s touristic attractions since everybody loves to travel to Cuba to talk with him and have a picture taken with him, the Pope wasn’t the exception of the rule. So far our Latin American “leaders” have been enjoying Mr. Fidel company, the list includes several presidents and former presidents from the Americas but nobody talk about 50 years of repression in Cuba, the violation of human rights, lack of democracy, persecution and death. Each picture with Fidel is printed with blood. It is a matter of lack of leadership, scarce solidarity and opportunistic leaders, to be a true democrat you have to behave like one in your country and outside your country.

I had the opportunity, with the help of several organizations, to be one of the responsible of the coordination of efforts of a group of eminent people in a request to Cuba's government to use the occasion of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's forthcoming visit to restrain the government's security forces and quasi-civilian proxies from harassing dissidents. The statement claiming for human rights and democracy in Cuba endorsed by Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, three former Latin American Presidents - Luis Alberto Monge Alvarez, Costa Rica (1982 - 1986), Alfredo Cristiani, El Salvador (1989 - 1994), Armando Calderón Sol, El Salvador (1994 -1999), Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal, former Canadian Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, alongside such eminent dissidents, democracy advocates and human rights activists as Martin Palous, Director of Vaclav Havel Library, Prague; French philosopher and writer Andre Glucksmann; Roman Catholic writer and theologian Michael Novack; Dr Alaksandr Milinkievic, 2006 Sakharov Prize Laureate, Belarus; several leading Chinese dissidents, 14 Members of the Lithuanian Parliament and more than 300 additional leaders and activists called for the end of the repression and the need for dialogue. Other group of intellectuals and activist requested similar approaches but sadly Mr. Ratzinger didn’t hear the voices and he lost the opportunity to send an effective message and the autocrat in Cuba miss another opportunity to end the repression and open the door of Cuba to freedom.

Maybe neither the Pope nor the regime cared about the message but this statement proves that Cubans are not alone and that there are hundreds of voices claiming for their liberty.

As a Catholic I must say that I’m not proud of the Pope’s behavior and message in Cuba. Sadly for the Catholic Church Jon Paul II’s shoes have been hard to fill for Ratzinger.

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