Pope Francis has arrived to Cuba. The plane had left this morning from Rome-Fiumicino and landed at the José Martí international airport in Havana. The Holy Father has been welcomed by the President Raul Castro and by the Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino. During the welcoming ceremony, Peter’s successor has given an official speech.
“I think that today the world is thirsty for peace” has said the Pontiff during the flight. “Wars, migrants, the migratory wave of people fleeing from wars, fleeing from death”. Bergoglio has then recalled: “This is my longest journey”. Then he has thanked the reporters “for what [they] are doing with [their] work in order to build bridges: small bridges, but bridge after bridge, [they] build peace. Thank you and have a safe flight. Good luck. And pray for me”.
Upon his arrival, the Pope has addressed a speech to the present authorities. The Pontiff has said he hopes that “the Church will continue to accompany and encourage Cuban people in their hopes and concerns, with freedom, as well as with the necessary means and space to bring the proclamation of the Kingdom to the existential suburbs of society”. The Holy Father has then recalled the recurrence of the first centenary of the proclamation of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre as patroness of Cuba, by Benedict XV. The mother of God, he has observed, “has accompanied the history of Cuban people, supporting their hope which preserves people’s dignity in the most demanding situations, and defending the promotion of everything that gives dignity to human beings”.
“These days – he has continued – I am going to have the opportunity to visit the Shrine of Cobre as a son and a pilgrim, to pray our Mother for all her Cuban children and for this beloved Nation, so that it can walk paths of righteousness, peace, freedom and reconciliation”. The bishop of Rome has pointed out also that, due to its geographical position, the “natural vocation” of the Caribbean archipelago is “to be the meeting point for all peoples who meet in friendship”. “During the last few months, he has said, we have been witnessing an event that fills us with hope: the process of normalization of the relations between two peoples, after years of cold distance”. In this regard, he has directed his encouragement, to the “responsible politicians”, so as to make them continue “to follow this path” by developing “all its potential, as an evidence of the high service they are called to lend in favour of their peoples’ peace and prosperity, and that of the entire America, and as an example of reconciliation for the whole world”.
“Affection, respect and hospitality”. These were the sentiments expressed by Raul Castro in his welcome speech delivered by president “in the name of the noble Cuban people”. “We have appreciated your support in the dialogue between the United States and Cuba,”he has said stressing right afterwards that “the restoration of the diplomatic relations was the first step of a process that aims at the normalization of the relations between the two countries, that will require the troubleshooting and repairing of the injustices”. The embargo, has said Castro, caused extensive damage and human difficulties for Cuban families: it is cruel, immoral and illegal: It needs to be removed”.
Raul has recalled the “memorable” meeting they had in the Vatican last May, which offered the opportunity to exchange ideas and to address some of the most important issues of the world”. The peoples of Latin America, has stressed the head of the Cuban State, “aim at integrating in defense of the independence, sovereignty over natural resources, and social justice. But without doubt our region continues to be the most unfair as far as the distribution of wealth is concerned”.
According to Castro “the current system is unfair: it has globalized the capital and transformed money into its idol”. Humanity, obviously, “is called to become aware of the need to change its lifestyles in order to distribute wealth, knowledge, and the fight against hunger in a better way “. It offends human conscience, has added the Cuban president, what happens at present to the immigrants”. Castro has recalled the words of the Pope in favour of “solidarity” and the need to fight together against inequality. “It is to gain the right on terrain and work, that the Cuban revolution took place – he has continued – to have a more just and fraternal society”. Castro has added that he has followed “very attentively” the pronouncements of the Pope on social issues and the encyclical “May you be praised” on “to the future, the protection of the planet and of the humanity”, and that they have pushed him towards deep reflection”. These impressions of Francis “will be the references for Castro in his speeches at the summit on the Post-2015 development agenda at the UN General Assembly, in which, next week, the Cuban president will partake for the first time, and at the summit on the climate at the end of the year in Paris. “His analysis of the causes of those problems and his appeal to protect the planet and the survival of our species, the cessation of the rather devastating activities of the rich countries and of the big multinational corporations begin to have a growing resonance in the world”.
After the greetings with Castro, Bergoglio’s popemobile has departed towards the Nunciature. Thousands of people have crowded on the edge of the 18-kilometers-long highway, that separates the José Martí international airport” from the center of Havana. The crowd was greeting Francis with waving handkerchiefs. The Pope, on his feet, responded with movements of the right hand, using the other one hold on to the back of the chair.
The opening event of the second day of Pope Francis’ apostolic journey will be Mass in the Plaza de la Revolucion in La Habana, scheduled at 9 a.m. It will be followed by Angelus. Then there will be a courtesy visit to the president of the State Council and to the Council of Ministers of the Republic at the Palacio de la Revolución. At 17.15 (local time) Pope Francis will celebrate Vespers with the priests, religious men and seminarians at the cathedral of the Caribbean capital. At 18.30 the bishop of Rome will be greeting young people of the Centro Cultural Father Felix Varela.