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Pope urges freedom of expression in Cuba
January 24, 1998
Pope John Paul II
Web posted at: 3:31 p.m. EST (2031 GMT)
SANTIAGO, Cuba (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II on Saturday
delivered his most outspoken political message yet of his
Cuban visit, calling for freedom of expression and of
Addressing tens of thousands of people who gathered for his
open-air Mass in Santiago, President Fidel Castro's hometown,
the pope said Catholics had "the duty and the right to
participate in public debate."
"The good of a nation must be promoted and achieved by its
citizens themselves," he said in a homily.
"In this way each person, enjoying freedom of expression, ...
and enjoying appropriate freedom of association, will be able
to cooperate effectively in the pursuit of the common good."
The pontiff also said that true freedom "includes the
recognition of human rights and social justice." And while
the pope said the church was not seeking any type of
political power, he said the church nevertheless needed
"sufficient freedom and adequate means" to spread its
Before the pope's message, Santiago Archbishop Pedro Jeurice
attacked the government for its one-party approach to
politics -- and was frequently and enthusiastically
Alluding to Cuba's ruling Communist Party, the archbishop
criticized "Cubans who have confused patriotism with a party,
the nation with a historical process."
In his welcoming words for the pontiff, Meurice said that
after Castro's 1959 revolution, the church was "impoverished"
by an "ideological confrontation with Marxism-Leninism
intentionally induced by the government."
Pope crowns Virgin of Charity
Pope John Paul II crowns the Virgin of Charity of El
Cobre, Cuba's most important religious icon
Also Saturday, the fourth day of his historic visit to the
island, the pope crowned the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre,
Cuba's most important religious icon. It is venerated by most
Cubans, even atheist supporters of Castro's government.
The small wooden effigy of a Madonna and child is said to
have been found floating on a board at sea by three fishermen
in 1606. According to legend, her dress was miraculously dry.
The Virgin's shrine at El Cobre, a copper mine 12 miles (19
kms) outside Santiago, is Cuba's most sacred pilgrimage site,
where people go to ask for her help in times of distress.
Even Castro's mother, Lina Ruz, pleaded with the Virgin to
save her son's life when he was fighting as a guerrilla in
the nearby Sierra Maestra mountains in the late 1950s.
The crowning of the statue took place in the city where
Castro's revolution was born in a hail of gunfire in 1953
with a brazen but abortive attack on the Moncada army
barracks. Afterward, Castro was imprisoned, then exiled.
When Castro declared the tri