Pope’s Havana appointment raises questions of whom he’ll meet

Wrapping up his appointment to Santiago de Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI landed in Havana on Tuesday amidst belief over whether he will accommodated with the island’s above president, Fidel Castro.

Benedict visited both abreast and about with Admiral Raul Castro on Tuesday evening. Those meetings, at atomic one of which was accepted to cover Castro’s family, could aswell cover the president’s acclaimed beforehand brother, who stepped down from ability in 2006 afterwards aggressive illness.

Also accession on the island over the weekend was Venezuelan Admiral Hugo Chavez, appear by Cuban accompaniment television to be in Cuba for radiation analysis for cancer.

It’s aswell not bright whether Benedict will appointment with Chavez, who has frequently catholic to Cuba for medical affliction and to accommodated with the country’s leaders, but the island was abuzz Tuesday with allocution over what affectionate of behind-the-scenes discussions a allotment of the leaders, if any, were getting had.

On Wednesday, Benedict is appointed to administer over huge crowds during Mass in the capital’s Anarchy Plaza, area 14 years ago Pope John Paul II addressed throngs of Cubans in the acclaimed aboriginal apostolic appointment to the island.

Havana admiral accept been active planning for his arrival, painting barrio and tacking posters beyond the city.

The cruise is timed to the 400th ceremony of Our Lady of Charity, Cuba’s angel saint, but ambiguity looms over what added will be said, with whom the pope will accommodated and what the appointment will in fact beggarly for Cubans.

“For me, I’m actual blessed he’s coming,” said Juana DeArmas, a shopkeeper in the capital’s Old Havana district. “I was actuality if John Paul came, and there were consistently affluence of tourists that followed.”

The appointment is aswell apparent as a accessible tourism addition to the island’s cash-strapped economy, as abounding association seek to accomplish use of a alternation of chargeless bazaar reforms that accept boring swelled the amount of clandestine businesses in the country.

Small abreast endemic shops accept back circumscribed up forth ancillary streets in the Cuban capital, and property, including absolute estate, can be bought and awash for the aboriginal time in decades.

Benedict, 84, accustomed in Cuba’s southeastern city-limits of Santiago de Cuba on Monday, afterwards branch to the city’s Basilica del Cobre area he prayed in foreground of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, a board bronze advised to be the altar of the island’s angel saint.

Upon his arrival, the abbey was greeted by Raul Castro and the country’s clergy, including Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

With a red carpeting formed out to accommodated Benedict’s airplane, Castro absolved beside the abbey on Monday to a brace of ample board chairs area the two stood for a abrupt photo op. A assumption bandage played Cuba’s civic canticle and added tunes as they stood together, while arms circuit were accursed adjacent in celebration.

Benedict told the admirers he seeks to accent “the accent of faith,” highlighting the charge for acceptable relations amid the abbey and the Marxist state.

“I backpack in my affection the just aspirations and accepted desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be,” he said.

Castro accustomed Benedict, adage his country has formed for accord and justice, but aswell took the befalling to bear a bash at the United States.

Even “14 years afterwards John Paul’s visit,” the U.S. bread-and-butter embargo adjoin Cuba persists, Castro said.

Clad all in white, Benedict absolved with the Cuban president, who was dressed in a aphotic suit, and greeted added accompaniment admiral and clergy.

Crowds of flag-waving Cubans lined the artery on which Benedict’s celebration traveled, as Cuban accompaniment television captured both arena and aeriform footage of the trip.

Benedict again acclaimed Mass in the city’s square, cartoon huge crowds as legions of musicians arena wind and cord instruments performed during pauses in his sermon, accurate by what appeared to be concert-grade complete systems.

The appointment to Cuba is the additional allotment of a two-country bout the pope has acclimated to advance the Catholic acceptance and abode political issues — at times subtly, and on occasions added overtly.

His aboriginal stop was Mexico, area he denounced abandon in that country brought by the advancing biologic wars. Benedict aswell accursed Cuba’s Marxist political arrangement Friday, adage it “no best corresponds to reality.”

Cuba says it will not change its political system

On Tuesday, a top Cuban government official responded to the pope’s comments, adage his country’s arrangement is acceptable and that it will not change.

“In Cuba, there will not be political reform,” said Marino Murillo, carnality admiral of the island’s board of ministers.

Last week, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, responding to the comment, said his government considers “the barter of account useful” and is still perfecting its system.

In 1998, Fidel Castro greeted a abundant altered abbey if bags were alien to John Paul, who abundantly apprenticed the nation “to accessible to the world, and the apple to accessible to Cuba.”

“There was a affectionate of adulation activity amid John Paul and Latin America,” said CNN chief Vatican analyst John Allen. “It just isn’t the aforementioned with Pope Benedict.”

In Mexico, an abbey apprenticed worshipers to stop authoritative comparisons amid Benedict and the above pope, who drew massive crowds beyond Latin America and visited every country in the arena afore he died in 2005.

In Cuba, admitting John Paul helped to balmy church-government relations, the country’s ties with adoration accept remained complicated.

Decades earlier, Castro’s antipathetic anarchy approved to brand out religious admission in Cuba, confiscating abbey acreage and expelling religious workers, some of whom had accurate anti-Castro forces.

The country was clearly agnostic until the 1990s, if the architecture was adapted and references to atheism were replaced with secularism. Christmas was accustomed as a anniversary at that time, and Antipathetic Party associates were acceptable to aboveboard convenance their faith, if they had one.

Church admiral now say the island is about 60% Catholic, admitting few aboveboard practice.

Still, religious admission to accompaniment television and the administering of religious schools abide abundantly restricted, which could be a point of accent during the pontiff’s trip, assemblage said.

“These apostolic visits can accept an impact,” Allen said. “They can affectionate of jar things loose. And it seems that beneath Raul, Cuba is demography babyish accomplish against normalization.”

But abounding on the island assume agnostic that the cruise will crop abiding results.

While the country’s Roman Catholic Abbey has generally been acclaimed for its role in contempo reforms, it has aswell accustomed abundant criticism for actualization too comfortable with the government.

Rights groups say the nation has abundantly emptied its jails of political prisoners, and yet it continues to annoy the country’s activists.


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