Seldom have I enjoyed myself more while watching a speech at an airport.
After getting through a banana Soviet welcome and a long drawn-out speech by Raul Castro, after seeing the Vatican flag being flown noticeably higher than the Cuban one and hearing the papal anthem played more beautifully than the Cuban, our little pope walked up to the microphone in his unassuming way and made a human rights speech.
He greeted Cuban refugees… er, “all Cubans, wherever they may be.”
He explicitly prayed for Cuban prisoners and called for their rights to be protected.
He announced that he had come both as a pilgrim of love and charity, and to strengthen the faith of his brethren, as is his job.
He announced that the real future of Cuba was in the love, freedom, and justice symbolized by Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, and by the great Cuban “fathers” like Jose Marti. (There were references to the fact that the rest of the world really needs to get on the stick about this, too, and that thus Cuba could become a leader instead of being stuck at the back of the pack.) Which is a nice appeal to both patriotism and ambition, especially to Cuban apparatchiks that don’t want to be stuck with Chavez and his Venezuelans as bosses.
Basically, it was an appeal to both the Gospel and natural law, presented in a way that didn’t pull any punches; but also invited even the Castro brothers to get with the program instead of being left behind. This is our current pope’s usual style of argument, but it was particularly striking when done right in the face of tyrants.
The Pope knows perfectly well that he’s in a den of thieves and murderers, and isn’t going to be allowed to speak directly to Cuba’s valiant confessors and faithful. So he’s preaching to the thieves and murderers.
May the Lord turn their hearts to Him, as He turned the heart of St. Dismas the bandit. (Whose normal feast day is also March 25th.) And may the Lord deliver His faithful people from slavery and lies.
UPDATE: Here’s the English-language text of the speech, since it’s not up on Vatican.va yet. As you can see, it’s sort of “pleasant platitude, blah blah, pointed statement said like of course we all know this is true, pleasant platitude, pointed statement again….” Not fire and brimstone, but definitely to the point. And there’s Raul having to sit there and take it… heh….
UPDATE: Here’s the speech on Vatican.va. They have video, too.