The Babalu Blog. the go-to blog on all news Cuban, gives us this tidbit on the funeral of Castro:
The photo below taken in Cuba shows soldiers having to push the vehicle carrying the cremated remains of dictator Fidel Castro throughout Cuba. Rumor has it that the jeep pulling the ashes of the deceased despot on the planned parade route where Cubans were ordered by State Security to line up and mourn openly for the cameras or risk arrest ran out of gas. How fitting.
It would be hard to think of a more appropriate image to mark the end of Fidel Castro’s half-century of utter failures and misery in Cuba.
Que Lastima. Never fear Fidel, I am sure that Satan, like all dictators, makes transportation run on time in his domain!
Fidel Castro, who turned his island homeland into a vast prison of which he was the Warden, died yesterday at age 90. My usual rule after someone dies is De mortuis nil nisi bonum, but I can think of nothing good about the life of Castro other than it now has ended. Under his regime millions of his countrymen risked death at sea rather than submit to his rule, and I can think of no more damning indictment for any ruler. A squalid dictator of the worst sort, Castro always received good press in some of the media in the West from leftists who were willing to forgive any sin if the proper Communist platitudes were spoken. Castro leaves behind him a broken nation of slaves. May they soon rise up and bring a new day to a free Cuba.
Pérez was among more than 200 arrested yesterday, according to Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) leader José Daniel Ferrer, who attested to the arrest of 209 members of his group in Oriente, the eastern end of Cuba. In contrast, the Cuban government arrested about 250 dissidents throughout the entirety of Pope Francis’ visit in September.
In addition to those taken to jail, at least one is being held under house arrest without charge. The man: Zaqueo Báez, who made international headlines in September for daring to approach Pope Francis’ vehicle in Havana and say the word “freedom” within earshot of the pontiff. Báez was beaten severely in front of the pope and taken to prison, facing criminal charges for disturbing the peace. Pope Francis later denied any knowledge of the incident despite his proximity to it.
The Cuban dissident community has loudly opposed President Obama’s visit, arguing that his presence on the island would embolden the Cuban government to act more violently against pro-democracy activists. “These sorts of visits bring a lot of collateral damage,” dissident Marta Beatriz Roque said in February.
Studies of Castro regime behavior following President Obama’s announcement in December 2017 that he would be establishing diplomatic ties with the Castro dictatorship show that Havana has become more oppressive and violent against those who demand to live in a democratic society. “There has been no substantial improvement in regard to human rights and individual freedoms on the island… [The Cuban government] has adapted its repressive methods in order to make them invisible to the scrutinizing, judgmental eyes of the international community, but it has not reduced the level of pressure or control over the opposition,” a report by the Czech NGO People in Need concluded in December.
Mahound’s Paradise highlights a refugee crisis that Pope Francis could use some of his patented compassion and mercy by highlighting:
At least 80,000 people have died in open water, attempting to flee Castro’s Cuba. Or at least that number is probable. Presumably most drowned, though undoubtedly many died of thirst or exposure, were eaten by sharks or were directly murdered by the Cuban border police or coast guard. Estimated figures for the number of lost were discussed in a 2004 paper by Maria Werlau, the Executive Director of the Cuba Archive:
Armando Lago, Ph.D., has derived an estimate of 77,814 such victims from data obtained in studies by the Oceanographic Institute of the University of Miami and the University of Havana. (Telephone interview of October 2003 with Armando Lago, Ph.D., Project Director of the Truth Recovery Archive on Cuba, www.CubaArchive.org. This data is from his upcoming book The Human Cost of So- cial Revolution: The Black Book of Cuban Communism.) Another study, using available estimates of survival rates, estimated in 1995 that over 100,000 may have perished from 1959 to 1994. (Holly Ackerman and Juan Clark, “The Cuban Balseros: Voyage of Uncertainty,” Miami: Cuban American National Council, 1995.) Francisco Chaviano, who attempted to collect this information inside Cuba, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1995. There are many media and anecdotal reports of deaths, but the identity of victims is rarely es- tablished and a systematic recording of bodies found at sea does not exist. (See, for example, P. Abusleme Hoffman, “Mueren dos mujeres en travesía de Cuba a la Florida,” El Nuevo Herald, 24 de febrero de 2001.) The exact number of victims, or even an accurate estimate, is simply impossible to know under the current circumstances and, in fact, may never be known precisely.
Unlike the current situation in the Mediterranean, where despite some well-reported cases, the vast majority of migrants successfully completed the crossing, the success rate for Cuban “rafters” is far worse. Almost certainly, over 50% of Cuban rafters failed in their attempt–though failure would not necessarily mean death but rather the more “benign” fate of being thwarted by Cuban police or the U.S. Coast Guard (which, tragically, since 1994 has followed a policy of forcibly repatriating intercepted refugees).
But at most times the death rate has probably been 25% or higher of those making the attempt. The total figure for deaths is close to 1% of the Island’s population.
Here are a few other interesting facts:
In 1994 Fidel Castro made a bizarre threat. He told the United States he would stop shooting people (or boarding or ramming their boats, etc.) who were trying to leave. Instead of thanking God and running up the welcome flags for escapees from communism, the Clinton Administration got Castro to go back on the threat by agreeing to empower the U.S. Coast Guard to send virtually all intercepted escapees back to Cuba.
Because leaving Cuba is illegal, the homemade boats and rafts come in all shapes, colors and sizes. See the end of this post for one that features the body of a truck.
If you see an empty raft in the Straits, chances are that represents human beings who didn’t make it. After picking up rafters, the U.S. Coast Guard usually destroys rafts it intercepts as a hazard to shipping.
The crossing usually takes three to five days. Sometimes rafters make it to the Dog Rocks, a set of uninhabited islands off the Bahamas (see below).
Latin American leftists (and their friends in the United States) call the refugees “worms”.
Pope Francis has called the refusal to aid Mediterranean refugees in distress an “act of war”. I do not believe he has ever spoken of the Cuban refugee situation. Nor am I aware of any previous Vatican comments on the matter (though that doesn’t mean there haven’t been any). Perhaps the Pope will bring it up in the next few days.
Something for the weekend. The Internationale being sung in Spanish in Havana. This is dedicated to Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and the Babalu Blog, the go to blog for all activities in Castro’s island gulag, tells us why:
Diplomacy does not seem to be Cardinal Jaime Ortega’s strongpoint. The archbishop of Havana behaved badly to a group of anti-Castro activists who were distributing a statement on a proposed amnesty law for political prisoners to diplomats attending 4th of July ceremonies at the home of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, head of the US Interests Section in Havana.
The cardinal’s harsh comments came shortly after a musical group — clad in colorful Prussian blue uniforms with white caps — had finished playing the last notes of the national anthems of Cuba and the United States on their wind instruments and after a brief welcome by Mr. DeLaurentis.
Relaxed officials and accredited diplomats working in Havana were chatting with dissidents, musicians and Cuban intellectuals — they had been invited to Independence Day celebrations — as waiters served red wine, beer, fruit juice and canapés.
Activists Egberto Escobedo and Jose Diaz Silva approached Ortega, who was chatting with a group of bishops, to hand him a list of fifty-one political prisoners whose release the Forum for Rights and Liberties — a group led by Antonio Rodiles, Angel Moya and Berta Soler — had been requesting every Sunday for twelve weeks in the face of intense harassment by police.
“I don’t want you handing me another list. Send it to the ’worms’* broadcasting on the radio from Miami. If you keep bothering me, I’ll have them call the police,” responded Ortega angrily.
Diplomats, guests and foreign journalists were taken aback. His outburst was the talk of the evening.
“He seemed more like a Stalinist commissar than a compassionate agent of the Lord. We assumed the Catholic church was supposed to welcome all of us. But for some time now there has been a faction of the Cuban church that has not only turned its back on dissidents but has attacked us nearly as forcefully as the government,” said Victor Manuel Dominguez, a poet and freelance journalist.
An official from a western embassy, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed the opinion of his mission that “all that is being asked of Ortega is that he at least listen to a person’s demands, even if he does not agree with them.”
The Cuban archbishop’s verbal hostility stems from statements he made on June 5 to Cadena Ser, a Spanish radio station, in which he said that there are no longer political prisoners in Cuba.
This statement provoked a harsh response from activist Jose Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez. Antunez and other activists — including Rodiles, Guillermo Fariñas, Angel Moya and Berta Soler — were present during the cardinal’s tantrum.
“This is what one would expect from a society in which religious institutions that supposedly welcome all believers turns its back on dissidents. But this is what is happening. Intellectuals and a certain segment of the clergy remain suspiciously silent in the face of Sunday assaults on activists and the Ladies in White,” said Rodiles.
The Babalu Blog, the go to site for news on Cuba, predicted the papal involvement in the “normalization” of relations with Cuba announced yesterday by Obama:
We’re not clairvoyants or prophets. We just deal with the facts.
Eleven months ago, when Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Vatican, a Babalu post asked: “Will Pope Francis Bring About the Release of Alan Gross?”
Here’s a quote from that post:
How’s this for a scenario?: Pope Francis gets Alan Gross freed in exchange for the four Castro spies, and, on top of that, orchestrates the restoration of US/Castro diplomatic ties, along with the lifting of the embargo. And it will all make Obama look so righteous and compassionate rather than weak, all because of the glow lent to the whole deal by Pope Francis’s halo.
Such speculation is not far-fetched.
Well, guess what? Unfortunately, today’s events have proven that such speculation was in fact correct.
Yeah. The “embargo” has not been lifted yet…. but the current occupant of the White House has turned the circumventing of congress into a rare art form. Just wait.
Hate to say “I told you so.” Those moments always involve a most exquisite and intolerable kind of pain.
Cuba’s communist-led intelligence services are aggressively recruiting leftist American academics and university professors as spies and influence agents, according to an internal FBI report published this week.
Cuban intelligence services “have perfected the work of placing agents, that includes aggressively targeting U.S. universities under the assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service],” the five-page unclassified FBI report says. It notes that the Cubans “devote a significant amount of resources to targeting and exploiting U.S. academia.”
“Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence services, including the [Cuban intelligence service],” the report concludes.
One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American leftists’ ideology. “For instance, someone who is allied with communist or leftist ideology may assist the [Cuban intelligence service] because of his/her personal beliefs,” the FBI report, dated Sept. 2, said.
Others are offered lucrative business deals in Cuba in a future post-U.S. embargo environment, and are treated to extravagant, all-expense paid visits to the island.
Coercive tactics used by the Cubans include exploiting personal weaknesses and sexual entrapment, usually during visits to Cuba.
The Cubans “will actively exploit visitors to the island” and U.S. academics are targeted by a special department of the spy agency.
If you want to know what is going on in Cuba, the Babalu blog is the go to blog. Carlos Eire tells us about the man who has just become my favorite papal nuncio:
Archbishop Bruno Musarò, Apostolic Nuncio to Castrogonia, blasted the island’s rulers recently, and a handful of news organizations are reporting on his comments.
Not surprisingly, the news reports thus far are only available in Italian, Spanish, and Polish. Nothing at all in English. No word from the AP or Reuters, or CNN, etc..
If the nuncio had denounced the “blockade” rather than the Castro regime, his comments would be getting a hell of a lot more attention, of course.
The nuncio’s remarks were first quoted by LecceNews24 in Italy, in an article entitled: “‘In Cuba you die’: Salentine bishop sounds the alarm.” You can find that full report HERE.
TV Marti picked up the story, and you can find their report HERE (includes video). El Mundo in Boliva also ran the story. Go HERE for that. And if you can read Polish, go HERE for that report.
The comments were made after he celebrated mass in the Italian town of Vignacastrisi. (Ha! VignaCASTRIsi: Who says God lacks a sense of humor?)
Among his observations, the following stand out:
“In Cuba you die.” (A Cuba si muore).
“In Cuba eating is a luxury.”
“The Cuban people live in conditions of absolute poverty and degradation without human or civil rights. They are the victims of a socialist dictatorship that has kept them enslaved for fifty-six years.”
“Only freedom can give hope to the Cuban people.”
“The only hope Cubans can have for a better life is to leave their island.”
“Italians who complain about many things in Italy should know that in Cuba a physician only earns 25 euros per month and that in order to live with dignity many Cuban professionals have to work as waiters at night.”
“In Cuba everything is controlled by the government, even milk and meat. Beef is a luxury and anyone who dares to slaughter a cow in order to eat it is arrested and sent to prison.”
“After more than half a century, praise is still being heaped on this Revolution, but, in the meantime, the Cuban people don’t have proper work and don’t have a way of feeding their own children.”
“I’m grateful that the pope sent me to that island, and I hope to be there when the socialist regime comes to an end.”
Apostolic nuncios serve as the pope’s ambassadors to the world’s nations. Archbishop Musarò was appointed as nuncio to Castrogonia by Pope Benedict XVI in August 2011.
Michael Totten in a brilliant essay in World Affairs on Cuba explains why totalitarian states produce such Hells on Earth:
Totalitarianism is a radical departure from the standard-issue authoritarianism of men like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, the Chinese communists-turned-capitalists currently ensconced in Beijing, and the former Shah of Iran. Jeanne Kirkpatrick explained the difference in a landmark essay in Commentary in 1979.
“Traditional autocrats,” she wrote, “leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power, status, and other resources which in most traditional societies favor an affluent few and maintain masses in poverty. But they worship traditional gods and observe traditional taboos. They do not disturb the habitual rhythms of work and leisure, habitual places of residence, habitual patterns of family and personal relations. Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who, growing up in the society, learn to cope, as children born to untouchables in India acquire the skills and attitudes necessary for survival in the miserable roles they are destined to fill. Such societies create no refugees.
“Precisely the opposite is true of revolutionary Communist regimes. They create refugees by the million because they claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society and make demands for change that so violate internalized values and habits that inhabitants flee by the tens of thousands in the remarkable expectation that their attitudes, values, and goals will ‘fit’ better in a foreign country than in their native land.”
Communism isn’t the only ideology that produces such explosive results. Hitler’s Nazi regime did the same, as do radical Islamists when they seize power. Iran’s Islamic Republic regime triggered such an enormous refugee crisis that the Westwood area of Los Angeles (where almost a million exiles reside) is nicknamed Tehrangeles.
And you’re almost as likely to hear Spanish spoken in South Florida as English.
“There is a damning contrast between the number of refugees created by Marxist regimes and those created by other autocracies,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “More than a million Cubans have left their homeland since Castro’s rise (one refugee for every nine inhabitants) as compared to about 35,000 each from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. In Africa more than five times as many refugees have fled Guinea and Guinea Bissau as have left Zimbabwe Rhodesia, suggesting that civil war and racial discrimination are easier for most people to bear than Marxist-style liberation.”
Paul Berman, in his masterful book Terror and Liberalism, wrote one of the best descriptions of totalitarian movements I’ve ever read. In a single paragraph he managed to describe fascists, Nazis, communists, and Islamists simultaneously and captures why so many ordinary citizens can’t coexist with them.
“Each of the movements,” he wrote, “in their lush variety, entertained a set of ideas that pointed in the same direction. The shared ideas were these: There exists a people of good who in a just world ought to enjoy a sound and healthy society. But society’s health has been undermined by a hideous infestation from within, something diabolical, which is aided by external agents from elsewhere in the world. The diabolical infestation must be rooted out. Rooting it out will require bloody internal struggles, capped by gigantic massacres. It will require an all-out war against the foreign allies of the inner infestation—an apocalyptic war, perhaps even Apocalyptic with a capital A. (The Book of the Apocalypse, as André Glucksmann has pointed out, does seem to have played a remote inspirational role in generating these twentieth-century doctrines.) But when the inner infestation has at last been rooted out and the external foe has been defeated, the people of good shall enjoy a new society purged of alien elements—a healthy society no longer subject to the vibrations of change and evolution, a society with a single, blocklike structure, solid and eternal.”
Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Marco Rubio (R.Fla.) had been listening to Tom Harkin (D.Ia.), pro-abort “Catholic”, give a speech about his trip to Cuba in which he managed to completely ignore Communist oppression, and Rubio decided to reply. It is a keeper. Here is the text of the speech:
A few moments ago, the body was treated to a report from the senator from Iowa about his recent trip to Cuba. Sounded like he had a wonderful trip visiting, what he described as, a real paradise. He bragged about a number of things that he learned on his trip to Cuba that I’d like to address briefly. He bragged about their health care system, medical school is free, doctors are free, clinics are free, their infant mortality rate may be even lower than ours. I wonder if the senator, however, was informed, number one, that the infant mortality rate of Cuba is completely calculated on figures provided by the Cuban government. And, by the way, totalitarian communist regimes don’t have the best history of accurately reporting things. I wonder if he was informed that before Castro, Cuba, by the way, was 13th in the whole world in infant mortality. I wonder if the government officials who hosted him, informed him that in Cuba there are instances reported, including by defectors, that if a child only lives a few hours after birth, they’re not counted as a person who ever lived and therefore don’t count against the mortality rate.
I wonder if our visitors to Cuba were informed that in Cuba, any time there is any sort of problem with the child in utero they are strongly encouraged to undergo abortions, and that’s why they have an abortion rate that skyrockets, and some say, is perhaps the highest the world. I heard him also talk about these great doctors that they have in Cuba. I have no doubt they’re very talented. I’ve met a bunch of them. You know where I met them? In the United States because they defected. Because in Cuba, doctors would rather drive a taxi cab or work in a hotel than be a doctor. I wonder if they spoke to him about the outbreak of cholera that they’ve been unable to control, or about the three-tiered system of health care that exists where foreigners and government officials get health care much better than that that’s available to the general population.
I also heard him speak about baseball and I know that Cubans love baseball, since my parents were from there and I grew up in a community surrounded by it. He talked about these great baseball players that are coming from Cuba — and they are. But I wonder if they informed him — in fact, I bet you they didn’t talk about those players to him because every single one of those guys playing in the Major Leagues defected. They left Cuba to play here.
He also talked about how people would come up to him in the streets and not a single person said anything negative about America. Nobody came up to him wagging their fingers saying, ‘You Americans and your embargo is hurting us.’ I’m glad to hear that. Because everyone who wants to lift the embargo is constantly telling us that the Castros use that to turn the people against us. So obviously, that’s not true. So I’m glad to hear confirmation of what I already knew to be true. I heard about their wonderful literacy rate, how everyone in Cuba knows how to read. That’s fantastic. Here’s the problem: they can only read censored stuff. They’re not allowed access to the Internet. The only newspapers they’re allowed to read are Granma or the ones produced by the government.
I wish that someone on that trip would have asked the average Cuban, ‘With your wonderful literacy skills, are you allowed to read The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any blog, for that matter?’ Because the answer’s, ‘No.’ So it’s great to have literacy, but if you don’t have access to the information, what’s the point of it? So I wish somebody would have asked about that on that trip. We heard about Mr. Gross, who is not in jail. He’s not a prisoner. He is a hostage. He is a hostage. And in the speech I heard a moment ago, I heard allusions to the idea that maybe we should — he didn’t say it, but I know the language, I know the code in this — that maybe there should be a spy swap. Here’s the problem: Mr. Gross was not a spy. You know what his crime was, if that’s what you can call it? He went to Cuba to hand out satellite radios to the Jewish community. But, we’re glad to hear that the Cubans are so nice to him that they let him walk 10,000 steps a day and do pull-ups and they let him build a necklace out of bottle cap tops. Very nice of them to allow him to do those things. How generous.
I wonder if anybody asked about terrorism, because Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. I wonder if anybody asked about the fact that, just a few months ago, a North Korean ship going from Cuba to North Korea was stopped in the Panama Canal and it contained items in violation of international sanctions against a government in North Korea that, a report just came out confirming what we already knew, has death camps and prison camps. And the Cubans are allowing them to evade these sanctions. Did that come up in any of the wonderful conversations in this socialist paradise in the Caribbean? I bet you it didn’t.
Let me tell you what the Cubans are really good at, because they don’t know how to run their economy, they don’t know how to build, they don’t know how to govern a people. What they are really good at is repression. What they are really good at is shutting off information to the Internet and to radio and television and social media. That’s what they’re really good at. And they’re not just good at it domestically, they’re good exporters of these things. And you want to see exhibit A, B, C and D? I’m going to show them to you right now. They have exported repression in real-time, in our hemisphere, right now.
Let me show you the first slide here. This gentleman here is the former mayor of a municipality in Caracas. His name is Leopoldo Lopez. And this is the National Guard of Venezuela pulling him into an armored truck last week. You know why? Because he’s protesting against the government. He’s protesting against the government of Venezuela, which are puppets of Havana, completely infiltrated by Cubans and agents from Havana. Not agents, openly, foreign military affairs officials involved in Venezuela. You know why? Because the Venezuela government is giving them cheap oil and free oil, in exchange for help during these sorts of repressions. So here he is, he’s sitting in jail right now because he’s protesting against the government. He’s sitting in jail right now.
So here’s the next slide. This is Genesis Carmona. She’s a beauty queen and a student in a city called Valencia. She’s on that motorcycle because the government in Venezuela and the thug, these so-called civilian groups that they’ve armed — another export from Cuba, a model the Cubans follow — they shot her in the head. She died last week. This is the government that the Cubans support. Not just verbally, not just emotionally, but with training and tactics. This is who they export — this is what they do. And she’s dead. And this is her being taken on a motorcycle to the hospital where they were unable to save her life because she was shot in the head by Venezuelan security forces.
For more than six decades Fidel Castro has been running an anti-Capitalist experiment. The results should be clear to all except Michael Moore and his ideological think-a-likes. Michael Totten gives us the grim details:
I walked toward the center of town from the somewhat remote Habana Libre Hotel and found myself the only foreigner in a miles-wide swath of destruction.
I’ve seen cities in the Middle East pulverized by war. I’ve seen cities elsewhere in Latin America stricken with unspeakable squalor and poverty. But nowhere else have I seen such a formerly grandiose city brought as low as Havana. The restored part of town—artifice though it may be—shows all too vividly what the whole thing once looked like.
It was a wealthy European city when it was built. Poor nations do not build capitals that look like Havana. They can’t. Poor nations build Guatemala City and Cairo.
“Havana” Theodore Dalrymple wrote in City Journal, “is like Beirut, without having gone through the civil war to achieve the destruction.” Actually, it’s worse even than that. Beirut pulses with energy. Parts of it are justifiably even a little bit snobbish like Paris. Even its poorest neighborhoods, the ones controlled by Hezbollah, aren’t as gruesome as most of Havana.
Yet the bones of Cuba’s capital are unmatched in our hemisphere. “The Cubans of successive centuries created a harmonious architectural whole almost without equal in the world,” Dalrymple wrote. “There is hardly a building that is wrong, a detail that is superfluous or tasteless. The tiled multicoloration of the Bacardi building, for example, which might be garish elsewhere, is perfectly adapted—natural, one might say—to the Cuban light, climate, and temper. Cuban architects understood the need for air and shade in a climate such as Cuba’s, and they proportioned buildings and rooms accordingly. They created an urban environment that, with its arcades, columns, verandas, and balconies, was elegant, sophisticated, convenient, and joyful.”
“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”
G. K. Chesterton
Ah poor Ireland. As the Faith has become weaker in the Emerald Isle, strange new gods are arising, and one of the strangest is Che Guevara, deceased Argentinian revolutionary and hero of politically correct fools everywhere. In Galway of all places the local government passed a measure approving of a memorial to Castro’s Himmler.
Yesterday Pope Benedict capped off his visit to Cuba with a huge mass in Revolution Square in Havana. The theme of his homily, freedom, probably made the Cuban officials at the mass squirm, at least I certainly hope so. Here is the text of the Pope’s homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Blessed are you, Lord God…, and blessed is your holy and glorious name” (Dan 3:52). This hymn of blessing from the Book of Daniel resounds today in our liturgy, inviting us repeatedly to bless and thank God. We are a part of that great chorus which praises the Lord without ceasing. We join in this concert of thanksgiving, and we offer our joyful and confident voice, which seeks to solidify the journey of faith with love and truth.
“Blessed be God” who gathers us in this historic square so that we may more profoundly enter into his life. I feel great joy in being here with you today to celebrate Holy Mass during this Jubilee Year devoted to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.
I greet with cordial affection Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, and I thank him for the kind words which he has addressed to me on your behalf. I extend warm greetings to the Cardinals and to my brother Bishops in Cuba and from other countries who wished to be in this solemn celebration. I also greet the priests, seminarians, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful gathered here, as well as the civil authorities who join us.
In today’s first reading, the three young men persecuted by the Babylonian king preferred to face death by fire rather than betray their conscience and their faith. They experienced the strength to “give thanks, glorify and praise God” in the conviction that the Lord of the universe and of history would not abandon them to death and annihilation. Truly, God never abandons his children, he never forgets them. He is above us and is able to save us by his power. At the same time, he is near to his people, and through his Son Jesus Christ he has wished to make his dwelling place among us in.
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:31). In this text from today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals himself as the Son of God the Father, the Saviour, the one who alone can show us the truth and give us genuine freedom. His teaching provokes resistance and disquiet among his hearers, and he accuses them of looking for reasons to kill him, alluding to the supreme sacrifice of the Cross, already imminent. Even so, he exhorts them to believe, to keep his word, so as to know the truth which redeems and justifies.