The occasion was the 400th anniversary of the miraculous finding of the statue of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, floating in the ocean in the middle of the bay. (Like other miraculously-found statues, it showed up at a miraculously right time and place, and that wonders accumulated around the statue afterward. The story goes that the statue was found in the middle of a sudden storm by three fishermen in a small open boat right before the waves calmed, and so they credited their lives as having been saved by Mary. But nobody is saying that it’s a statue “not made by hands” or anything like that.)
Anyway, the Pope naturally talked about the feast of the Annunciation, the Incarnation of the Lord, and so on. He had a chance to catechize people who might not have heard that part of the Good News, so her went for it.
But he also made another human rights speech.
He talked about God’s concern for Mary’s freedom. The Almighty asked for the free consent of a human girl, a creature He could have squashed like a bug. The unspoken criticism is that God was infinitely more concerned with individual human rights than the Cuban government is.
“….we cannot fail to turn our eyes to her so as to be filled with wonder, gratitude and love at seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of his creatures. Only from the moment when the Virgin responded to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), did the eternal Word of the Father began his human existence in time.
“It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it…
“….to live in accordance with his will is the way to encounter our genuine identity, the truth of our being, while apart from God we are alienated from ourselves and are hurled into the void.
“The obedience of faith is true liberty….
“Dear brothers and sisters, I know with what effort, boldness and self-sacrifice you work every day so that, in the concrete circumstances of your country, and at this moment in history, the Church will better present her true face… let us determine to follow Jesus without fear or doubts on his journey to the Cross. May we accept with patience and faith whatever opposition or affliction may come, with the conviction that, in his Resurrection, he has crushed the power of evil which darkens everything, and has brought the dawn of a new world, the world of God, of light, of truth and happiness. The Lord will not fail to bless with abundant fruits the generosity of your commitment.
“The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life… Dear brothers and sisters, before the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God. Amen.”
Babalu Blog is not satisfied. I sympathize with their impatience, but I’m not sure how much more open you can get in calling for freedom without actually unleashing the proverbial Swiss Guard Ninja Death Squad Elite to carve out a path of blood and fire through the bodies of every apparatchik on the island. And since there ain’t no such thing as Swiss Guard Ninjas, that would be a bit difficult to arrange.
Pope JPII’s rhetoric freed Poland — because Poland was ready. President Reagan’s rhetoric took down the Berlin Wall — because the people were ready, and the governments involved were weak. Neither of them managed to bring down Cuba by talking, because the Castros stink at everything except keeping their people in perpetual lockdown. Not even the fall of the Soviet Union freed Belarus, because their tyrant is similarly “gifted.” Someday the situation will shift far enough, and the Cuban people will stand up and grab their own destiny. But that time wasn’t last night, as far as I know.
UPDATE: The papal coverage on EWTN was supposed to begin again at 10 AM Eastern Time, when the pope visited the shrine at Cobre. The coverage is now a half hour late; and of course, there’s no cellphone or Internet on Cuba this week, unless EWTN has a satellite phone somewhere…. It seems to be coming on now, though, at 10:30. The Pope’s already praying inside the shrine. I guess the Cuban government doesn’t want the Pope shown on the streets getting cheered, or being jeered by their shills with their pre-prepared anti-papal slogans. The EWTN people aren’t mentioning anything explaining the late coverage, at least not right now.