VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) – A message from Benedict XVI to the bishops of Cuba on the tenth anniversary of the visit made by John Paul II to that country (21-26 January 1998) was distributed yesterday afternoon. The message was delivered to the Cuban prelates by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, who yesterday began a six-day visit to Cuba for the celebration.“The ten year anniversary marking those unforgettable days for the Church and the Cuban people that were lived as the enthusiastic world watched”, writes the Pope, “is without a doubt a duty of gratitude toward my venerated Predecessor as well as a sign of our passionate intention to renew the commitment to evangelization that he left deeply impressed in the hearts of all”.The Holy Father expressed his admiration for the Cuban bishops’ “pastoral unveilings” and his nearness to the “hopes and concerns of all the Cuban people. I constantly ask that the Lord give you the strength and generosity to live your faith ever more intensely and to work toward a world that is enlightened by the Gospel”.
“The proclamation of Christ’s Gospel continues to find hearts in Cuba that are ready to welcome it. This fact carries with it the constant responsibility to help them to grow in the spiritual life, proposing to them this ‘high standard of ordinary Christian living’ that is the call to holiness of all baptized persons”.
The Pope emphasized that “proclaiming true doctrine, beginning with listening to and deepening one’s understanding of the word of God, promoting the participation in the sacraments, and fostering a life of prayer are the primary goals of pastoral action, then bringing to all the salvation of Christ is the nucleus of the Church’s mission”.
Although recognizing that “some Christian communities are overwhelmed by difficulties due to scarcity of resources, indifference, or even misgivings that can lead to discouragement”, Benedict XVI encouraged the Cuban Catholics to “put your hope in Jesus Christ, our Savior who does not disappoint and who fills your hearts with joy, giving meaning and fruitfulness to your life of faith”.
“How many times”, he continued, “do small gestures of friendship and good will, simple and ordinary gestures of respect, of care for the one who suffers or who gives unselfishly for the good of others, reveal a glimpse of the limitless love that God has for each and every one of us”.
In this context, he writes, it is very important that “the Church’s mission in Cuba to those in most need acquires a great importance, with concrete works of service to and care for the men and women of all walks of life, who deserve to be supported not only in their material needs, but also welcomed with affection and understanding. The Pope deeply thanks the effort and sacrifice of the people and communities engaged in these works, following the example of Christ who ‘came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many'”.
Benedict XVI urged the faithful Cubans to make the proclamation of the Gospel, which arrived in their country five centuries ago, bear fruit. The values of the Gospel message “had a great influence in the birth of the nation, above all through the work of the Servant of God Félix Varela and José Martí, who preached of the love of God among Cubans and all persons. These values are also vital to the harmony and future of the nation”.
“This inheritance has deeply marked the Cuban soul that today needs your generous pastoral care to be renewed again and again, showing that the Church, focusing its gaze upon Jesus Christ, does good, promotes the dignity of the person, and, in sowing seeds of understanding, mercy, and reconciliation, contributes to the betterment of persons and of society”.
The Holy Father concluded his message with assurances of his concern and “the fraternal prayer and collaboration of the other churches throughout the entire world”.