By Donna Westfall
In a country built on Communism since 1959, don’t you find it incredible that 200,000 Catholics still exist to welcome the Pope and take part in a huge Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square?
What is even more astounding is that for six decades two brothers, Raul and Fidel Castro have ruled this little Caribbean nation and during that time, several Popes have called for change. In 1998, St. John Paul II called for “great change” and urged greater respect for religious and other human rights. Pope Benedict XVI echoed that call in 2012.
Pope Francis has toned down the message and has steered clear of overt political statements, much more so than his predecessors. He asked for Catholics to be allowed more religious freedoms.
Was the Pope aware that 50 Catholic dissidents were arrested before his visit? Did the Pope know that the group–composed of mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives of prisoners of conscience–is predominantly Catholic and attends Mass in white every Sunday?
Would Pope Francis have toned down his message if he witnessed women being rounded up, hauled into buses and thrown into jail for hours at a time? Would he have spoken up if he knew that Cuba increased the number of political arrests by 70 percent between February and March alone this year?
We live in relative peace and freedom. We can still speak up and speak out even though most of Del Norte is pretty passive against the cronyism and corruption in our town. But still, most of us don’t have to worry about being hauled off to jail for expressing our views about politics or religious freedoms.