CARDINAL: CUBA IN A “SPRINGTIME OF FAITH”

Marian Pilgrimage Seen as Sign of Changing Times

HAVANA, Cuba, SEPT. 6, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Havana is claiming that Cuba is in a springtime of faith.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino spoke Sunday of “many things” changing, as he led a ceremony in Madruga, 35 kilometers (21 miles) from the Cuban capital.

The event was part of a pilgrimage of the image of the Virgin Mary hailed as Cuba’s patron, Our Lady of Charity of Cobre. The pilgrimage is marking the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image.

Amid the acclamations and songs of thousands of faithful, the cardinal pointed out: “This pilgrimage has great significance: to be a moment of dialogue and reconciliation.”

The journey of the small statue of the Virgin through Cuba is truly a historic event. The only other pilgrimage of modern times with the image took place in 1952 (seven years before Fidel Castro’s advent to power), for the country’s 50th anniversary of formal independence.

A Mass was celebrated after the procession. In the homily, Cardinal Ortega — who recalled Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Cuba in 1998 — appealed to the faithful to “pray for the homeland, for all Cubans, outside and inside the country, and especially for social peace and progress.”

“At this moment of our national history, we need many changes and many things are already changing,” he said. “The Cuban people are coming ever closer to the Catholic Church. Today, the times of curious simulations, fears and dissimulations belong to the past (…) although many office bureaucrats don’t realize it and don’t understand that it is no longer the time of mix-ups.”

Environment

Cardinal Ortega spoke of the dialogue undertaken in 2010 with President Raúl Castro, which made possible the release of some 130 political prisoners, as “part of the new environment of change in Cuba.”

The national pilgrimage of the Virgin has covered 25,000 kilometers (15,500 miles) since it began on Aug. 8, 2010, in Santiago de Cuba; it will end Dec. 30 in Havana. The Virgin will then return to her shrine in the village of El Cobre.

In 2012, a Marian Jubilee will be celebrated on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the small statue also called the “Virgin of Mambisa.”

In statements to the press, Cardinal Ortega did not discard the possibility of Benedict XVI visiting Cuba. He noted that the local Church has invited him, and he “has not answered that he cannot.” The cardinal added that the Pope even “said that he wishes to come.”

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