Tuesday, April 3, 2012

After Benedict's visit

In his final mass in Havana in his 1998 visit, Pope John Paul II blessed the cornerstone of a seminary that existed only as an idea awaiting Cuban government approval.  The rock sat for years in the hall outside Cardinal Ortega’s office.  Eventually construction of the seminary was approved, the Cuban government assisted, and the San Carlos and San Ambrosio seminary was inaugurated in 2010 with Raul Castro in attendance.  Dozens of future Cuban priests are training there now, a hopeful step forward for a church that has long relied heavily on foreign clergy.

This story comes to mind now as I read the analyses following the visit of Benedict XVI. 

I’m not one who expected the papal visit to spark big changes in Cuba, and I don’t have the visit plotted on a political scorecard.  The short-term impact of the pastoral visit was summed up by Miami Bishop Agustin Roman: it was a “spiritual retreat” for Cuban Catholics. 

The visit’s political impact, I would guess, will play out over years in the form of Vatican support for the Cuban church’s efforts to gain more space for its activities: education, media access, and more.  The government made a quick gesture in that regard by declaring Good Friday a work holiday (AP).

Some coverage from the past week:

Laura Wides-Munoz of AP’s Miami bureau accompanied Cuban Americans during their visits and wrote a very poignant article about their impressions, good and bad.

On the mass in Havana from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.  More from the Times on the remarks by Cuba’s economic reform czar, Marino Murillo, to the effect that the economy will continue changing but Cuba will not have political reform.

Benedict’s remarks at the airport before departing Havana

The text of the homily delivered March 27 in the Havana cathedral by Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

The Herald, from Santiago, on mission houses – the homes of lay Catholics in areas without churches where visiting priests say mass.

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