«Do not be afraid» - Igor Man
Jubilee 2000 Search

The signs of hope: peoples

Igor Man

History is also an ironic director: in Cuba, during the Pope's biblical homily (because it was strong, intelligent and prophetic) the crowd which filled the Red Square of the Caribbean yelled «Freedom» and Fidel Castro could not hold himself back from applauding as the central committee of the defunct pcus. With his arrival in Havana, John Paul II said: «Do not be afraid». We saw that this evangelic exhortation was destined not just to the people of Cuba (a people who are in a certain sense «martyrs») but also to the Lider Maximo. It seems that both of them heard that appeal, considering that the people broke the taboo of silence, son of police terror; considering that Fidel Castro did not just participate in the Mass, following the liturgy with the help of the missal, but he also exchanged, «in a sign of peace», emotional handshakes with incredulous prelates and uncomfortable communists of steel, and finally he thanked the Pontiff, at the moment of departure, «even» for his criticisms.

Accepting that which he defined «criticism», to look closely at the communist Castro, he made «self-criticisms». But not in front of the (so-called) jury of the people, but in front of the jury of history. With elegant truth, the Pope did not throw anything in the Lider Maximo's face, who is visibly physically marked by an evil illness «which is not just old age». Proclaiming the primate of Truth which exalts Hope, John Paul II demolished the affibulations typical of residual communism with which Castro had filled his preceding speeches to «distinguish» between the misery of other Latin-American countries and the suffering of his people which is the victim of the ferocious «dogma-embargo» of the United States. Certainly, «the Cuban people cannot see themselves deprived of ties to other nations, especially when the forced isolation affects the people in an indiscriminate way, increasing the difficulties of the most weak». The restrictive economic measures imposed externally are «unjust and ethically unacceptable», said the Pope. But it is also certain that not all the disgraces that afflict the good Cuban people can be attributed to the origin of the economic blockade imposed by the USA. Keeping in mind the cruelty, born out of frustration from the embargo, it must be said how Castro reacted in a very awkward and chaotic way without accepting the advice of his economic experts (and there are some, even in Cuba, there are some), with the result of aggravating the situation. His famous «openings», let's say of the market economy, broke the Cuban society in half. After the arrival of the dollar in Cuba, there are those who use it maintaining a decent level of quality of life, while the others, the misfortunate ones, or the honest ones are anchored to the miserable income in pesos, the poor, therefore, have become more poor. Again: in a supreme abuse to socialism which is real in the Cuban salsa, that is to say, in castro-ism, with the «openings» Cuba now sees those prostitutions and that black market - a leper- against those 39 years ago, when the same Castro and his hero and companion Ernesto Che Guevara, had courageously fought against even with the lose of life.

Here, however, there is a decisive point: Castro, a brilliant student of the Jesuits of Santiago de Cuba, was not a communist. In January of 1961 to one of my precise questions, he responded: «We are not communist, nor anti-Communist: we are humanists». And what does that mean? «Companero, you decide...». He was looking to the United States and went there to ask for help (that is investments) «for a Cuba free from vices and dictators», but his appeal was ignored. That is because at the time it was the United Fruit Co. Being the good and the bad of the State Department; and Castro, as a good revolutionary, had first nationalized the company that was dear to Foster Dulles. Fidel was, thus, forced (the same had happened to Nasser, religiously anti-Communist, guilty of having nationalized the Suez Canal) to throw himself in the arms of Moscow, and subsequently, of Beijing, «converting» in this way to communism which he tried to castro-size with the disastrous results which we know.

The (relatively) miserable Soviet-Chinese benefits where enough to ensure that Cuba moved ahead with a dignified poverty, protecting (with success) the literacy of the country, and the medical-scientific research. The end of the USSR and the movements in China broke the source of aid, and poverty was no longer dignified but intolerable, and the embittered American economic blockade, did not give a valid response. From here juxtaposed the neo-liberal «openings» in Cuban salsa, with the disastrous effects which we have seen.

In the Gospel according the Matthew it is written: «Knock, and the door will be opened, ask and you shall receive»: as an ex-altar boy, Castro must have remembered that, since he came to Rome and knocked on the bronze door. It was opened for him. He asked and he received. But what? Not the legitimization, as some people have written, but the gift of Truth which exalts in hope; and to hope, as Georges Bernanos wrote, «it is a chaste engagement with the future».

Therefore, the Pope went to Havana, not because, as some had cautiously said, between him and Castro a love is being born at first sight, but instead to bring the Gospel (here is the gift) in that great small island rich in terrible History which is called Cuba, with its dilapidated houses, without a crucifix by the order of the Big Brother, but with faith intact in the heart of the people. Those people, who will yell often during the papal homily, a slogan which by now is part of the Cuban history: «el Papa libre nos quiere a tadoslibre», the free Pope wants us Freed. The Gospel of Sunday January 25, of the Anno Domini 1998 says: «The Spirit of the Lord is above me, that is why he consecrated me with oils and sent me to announce to the poor the happy message, to proclaim freedom to prisoners, and the blind, sight; to free the oppressed and to preach a year of grace for the Lord». Solicited by the prophetic force of these words, while the southwest wind ruffled his vestments, the Pope said in his homily that the Holy Spirit is like the wind, it blows where it wants «and today it wants to blow over Cuba». And in thanks to the Holy Spirit, him, the mouthpiece of the Gospel, the old but unyielding Pontiff of Rome, clarified that a free and modern country cannot be build not (just) on religion, not (just) on atheism, but on Love, Liberty and Justice, involving the Family and the values where descend from them. Recalling then, in this way, to the principles of the father of the Cuban nation, Jose Marti, but likewise to the preaching of a priest, Felix Varela, who, should be remembered for envisioning a Cuban republic focused on an «ethical-democratic vision» of the public administration «for the good of man».

Before boarding the plane, the Pope had seen and heard drops of rain falling. In the Tropics this happens often, but John Paul II asked himself: «Why, after so much heat does the rain come now? It could be a sign that the heavens cry because the Pope is leaving. But it would be a superficial hermeneutic. The most profound hermeneutic of rain can mean encouragement. That this rain, may be a good sign, for a new advent in your history». This is how the Pope concluded. Now the great silence followed by the Words given and yelled by John Paul II to Cubans, and the world, must be broken by Castro. And the old journalist likes to hope that the rain which blessed the final hours of the Pope in Cuba is purifying and cleans the old Lider Maximo: for the good of his people who ask for bread and freedom and a bit, but only a bit, of respect