Nina Shea does tremendous work, but I find her take on the Pope’s visit to Cuba to be off the mark, if not naïve. What Cuba needed was the kind of Holy Father who visited Nicaragua in 1983 and told off Sandinista theologian and state minister Ernesto Cardinal. Instead, Benedict — traveling as a “Pilgrim of Charity” — refused to clearly show any charity towards Cuba’s persecuted Catholics. He had some swell public handshakes with Raul Castro, on whose stained hands is the blood of many Cuban foes of tyranny, and a glorious tête-à-tête with Fidel, who remains fidel . . . to oppression, but a mention of the Ladies in White? Nada.
Nina writes about the Mass:
The first reading (Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95) was the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who “defied the order of the king” and were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment. As the pope put it: “The three young men persecuted by the Babylonian king preferred to face death by fire rather than betray their conscience and their faith.”
At that moment, images of the Ladies in White, their imprisoned loved ones, Dr. Oscar Biscet, Elizardo Sanchez, and Cuba’s legions of other persecuted dissidents over the past half-century must have been in the forefront of everyone’s minds.
No, it must not have been. But it would have been if the Pope said so forcefully and directly, without shrouded hints or mystical nuances. He had the moxie to hit the US embargo, he should have shown the moxie of true charity by speaking out for the oppressed. I guess the upside for Cubans is that the cock crowed, and the heir of Peter denied them, so this upcoming Passion Week brings them closer to the Christ of Gethsemane and The Cross. But damn, shouldn’t they have been brought closer to political freedom? Again, it’s something another Holy Father would have done, and did do. But I guess the freedom of Cubans doesn’t equate to the freedom of Europeans.
By the way (I): It’s been reported today that the Castro regime arrested several of the Ladies in White before they could attend the Papal Mass. Well, they were at the forefront of someone’s mind (unfortunately, the head of state security).
By the way (II): The bravest man in Cuba was this solitary soul, who shouted “down with communism!” at the Papal Mass, and was then led away, to await what torments one shudders to consider: