Pope Francis told Cuban young people to be “good patriots” and love their homeland in a video message Saturday sent to participants at a youth ministry conference in Havana.
“I encourage you to fall in love with Jesus and to make an increasingly concrete commitment to the service of the church in this concrete Cuba of today,” the pope said, “without fear of hearing God’s call in the situations that present themselves every day.”
“Good patriots, love your homeland, love your country!” he said. “Be generous and open your heart to the Lord!”
Catholics and other Christians may love their homeland, but it is not clear that the leaders of the Patria love them.
Last month, about 36 members of Cuban dissident group Ladies in White were arrested while participating in pro-democracy demonstrations and attempting to attend Catholic Mass on Palm Sunday.
The Ladies in White are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives of political prisoners; they protest the regime’s repression of speech and religion every Sunday by attempting to attend Mass wearing white and carrying gladiolas.
The Havana wing of the group has been banned from their own parish church of Santa Rita for two years but receive little support from Catholic leaders on the island.
Moreover, Cuban authorities have reportedly blocked distribution of about 17,000 copies of the Bible despite the fact that Cuba officially lifted a state ban on Bibles in 2015.
Bíblica, a global ministry that helps distribute copies of the Bible, said that the thousands of Bibles intended for Cuba returned to Miami, Florida, and remain out of the hands of the believers on the island.
On Thursday, Cuba received a new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, after a secret vote in the country’s National Assembly the day before.
As the unopposed candidate to replace Raul Castro, Díaz-Canel was voted in 603-1 Wednesday, but, as Breitbart News reported, Raúl Castro will continue on as head of the Communist Party, the supreme governing organ of the country. In practice, therefore, Castro will continue running the country, and that is not due to change until 2021.
Cuba’s Constitution is modeled after the Soviet Union’s and also resembles modern-day China’s, meaning the legislature has full control over who becomes president and who joins his Cabinet.
In his video message Saturday, Pope Francis urged young people to “build up the Cuban Church of today and tomorrow” as well as “the Cuban homeland of today and tomorrow.”
“I invite you to always go forward: look forward, love your homeland, love Jesus and let the Virgin Mary take care of you. Courage!” he said.
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