POPE Francis emphasized the “vocation for greatness” of the Cuban people, in a mass celebrated on September 20 in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, attended by thousands.
The religious ceremony, which began at 9.00 am local time, was attended by the Presidents of Cuba, Raúl Castro, and Argentina, Cristina Fernández, as well as several government officials, figures and representatives of various denominations.
From the stage erected in front of the National Theater and flanked by the monument to Cuba’s national hero, José Martí, on one side, and the likeness of Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara on the other, the Pontiff blessed all Cubans.
In his homily, the first Latin American Pope praised the values of the Cuban people, noting “Cuba is a people with a taste for celebration, for friendship, for beautiful things. It is a people which moves forward in song and giving praise. It is a people which has its wounds, like every other people, yet knows how to stand up with open arms, to keep walking in hope, because it has a vocation for greatness.”
CUBAN CARDINAL WELCOMES POPE’S WORDS OF HOPE
Cuban Cardinal, Jaime Ortega, welcomed the words of hope contained within Pope Francis’ statements and thanked him for sowing good and necessary concerns in dormant and indifferent minds.
Speaking in the José Martí Plaza de la Revolución following the Holy Mass officiated by the Pontiff, the Archbishop of Havana noted that these words of hope are especially felt by the poor of the cities and the countryside, of socioeconomic and political peripheries around the world.
Thank you on behalf of all the marginalized, discarded and forgotten among whom Jesus appears again, as you touch each one of them with your words and with your hands, Ortega expressed as he addressed the Pontiff.
IN THE CATHEDRAL OF HAVAVA
Similarly, the Pope urged bishops, priests and nuns to cultivate mercy and take pride in poverty, on presiding vespers at the Cathedral of Havana.
He added that the mundane spirit doesn’t know poverty, it scorns and hides poverty, offending God if necessary to avoid it.
He warned that once material goods enter the heart and begin to direct your life, you are lost, although poverty may protect against all vanity.
At another stage in his unscripted words, which replaced the homily he had initially prepared for vespers, the Pope addressed the consecrated persons in attendance, reminding them that they must leave everything, to serve others, for when the desire for richness enters the heart of a priest or bishop, it is disastrous.
He described as happy the poor who aren’t attached to the riches of this world and who dedicate their lives to serving the poor and needy.
Finally, he called on those gathered not to fear poverty or mercy, as on attending to and loving those who are victims of adversity, they are following Jesus, who gave up everything for the poor.
CALL FOR YOUTH TO CREATE A CULTURE OF ENCOUNTER
In Havana, Pope Francis called on Cuban youth to dream, forge social friendship and create a culture of encounter, in order to ensure the greatness of the homeland.
In an activity held at the entrance to the Félix Varela Cultural Center, His Holiness stressed that a young person who is incapable of dreaming is closed in on him/herself.
He added that sometimes we dream of things that will not happen, but we should continue to desire them, to seek horizons and open ourselves up.
The world can be different, better, if you give the best of yourself, he told the youth, urging them to share their dreams, to speak about the great things they desire.
The Pope also lamented the throwaway culture that exists, and its effects on the youth, robbing them of their hope and leading them to addictions or suicide.
While in Havana, the Bishop of Rome also visited the Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Ignatius of Loyola, where he greeted the faithful and all those gathered.
This is the third papal trip to Cuba in the past 17 years, following the visits by John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012.