Date: Thu, 22 Jan 98 16:10:11 CST
Subject: RHC-Pope's Speech on Arrival in Havana, Jan 21 98
Article: 26104

Pope's Speech on Arrival in Havana, Jan 21 98

Special report from Radio Havana Cuba, 21 January 1998

Radio Havana Cuba's brings you the text of the address delivered by His Holiness John Paul II upon his arrival in Cuba on his pastoral visit, at Havana's “Jose Marti” International Airport, January 21, 1998.

President, Mr. Cardinal, and brother bishops, distinguished authorities, members of the diplomatic corps, dear brothers and sisters of Cuba,

I thank God, the Lord of History and of our personal destinies for having allowed me to come to this land, which Christopher Columbus called the most beautiful land that human eyes have beheld. Arriving on this land where the cross of Christ was raised over 500 years ago, the same cross jealously treasured today in the parish church of Baracoa, on the eastermost part of the country. I greet everyone, with warm affection.

The happy, long awaited day has finally arrived when I am able to honor the invitation that the bishops of Cuba extended me a rather long time ago, an invitation that the President of the Republic also extended to me, and which he personally reiterated at the Vatican on the occasion of his visit there in 1996. I am filled with happiness to be able to visit your country, be among you, and sharing these days of faith, hope, and love.

I am pleased to address my greetings, in the first place, to President Dr Fidel Castro Ruz, who has kindly come here to meet me and to whom I wish to express my thanks for his words of welcome. I likewise express my thanks to the other authorities present, to the diplomatic corps, and to all who have had a part in preparing this pastoral visit.

I cordially greet my brothers in the episcopate, in particular Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, and each of the other Cuban bishops as well as those who have come from other countries to take part in the events of this pastoral visit and to renew and strengthen, as on many other occasions, the close bonds of communion and love between their particular churches and the church in Cuba.

In this greeting, my heart goes out with great affection also to the beloved priests, deacons, the religious, catechists, faithful men and women, who venerate the Lord as shepherd of the Universal Church. In each of them I see the reflection of this local Church, really loved and always present in my heart, with whose aspirations and legitimate desires I feel closely bound in solidarity.

God grant that this visit that begins today may serve as an encouragement to each one in the task of making these expectations a reality, with the partnership of all Cubans and the help of the Holly Spirit. You are and must be the protagonists of your own personal and national history.

At the same time, I cordially greet the entire Cuban people and I address everyone without exception, men and women, young and old, adolescents and children, all those I will meet, and those who for various reasons will not be able to take part in the different celebrations.

On this apostolic journey, I came in the name of the Lord to confirm you in your faith, to strengthen you in hope, and to encourage you in love. I come to share your profound religious spirit, your endeavors, joys and sufferings, and to celebrate as one big family the mystery of divine love in order to make it more deeply present in the life and history of this noble people in its thirst for God and for spiritual values that in these five hundred years of presence on the island the church has not ceased to dispense.

I come as a pilgrim of love, of truth and of hope, with the desire to give a fresh impulse to the work of evangelization which, in the midst of difficulties this local church continues to sustain with apostolic vitality and dynamism on its way to the Third Christian Millennium.

In fulfilling my ministry, I have not ceased to proclaim the truth concerning Jesus Christ the one who has revealed the truth about man, his mission in the world, the greatness of his destiny and his inviolable dignity. In this respect, the service of man is the path of the church. I am here today to share with you my profound conviction that the message of the gospel leads to love commitment, self- sacrifice and forgiveness, so that a people who follow this path, is a people with hope for a better future. Therefore, from the very first moment of my presence among you I wish to say with the same force as at the beginning of my pontificate, “do not be afraid to open your hearts to Christ”. Allow him to come into your lives, into your families, into society. This way, all things will be made new. The Church repeats this appeal calling everyone together without exceptions, individuals, families, peoples, so that by faithfully following Jesus Christ all may find the full meaning of their live committing themselves to serving their neighbor, transform the bonds of family, work and friendship, This will always benefit the nation and society.

The Church in Cuba has always proclaimed Jesus Christ even if at times, there has been a scarcity of priests, and has had to do so in difficult circumstances. I wish to express my admiration for so many of the Cuban faithful, for their fidelity to Christ,to the Church and to the Pope and always for their respect they have shown to most genuine religious tradition learned from their elders and for the courage and perserverence and spirit of commitment demonstrated in the midst of their suffering and ardent hopes. All this has been rewarded on many occasions by the solidarity shown by other ecclesiastic communities in America and throughout the world. Today, as always, the Church in Cuba wishes to be in a position to continue serving all the people in accordance with the mission and teachings of Jesus Christ.

Dear Sons and Daughters of the Cuban Catholic Church, I well know how much you have looked forward to the moment of my visit. I know how much I have desired it. therefore, my best wishes are joined with the prayer that this land may offer to everyone a climate of freedom,mutual trust, social justice and lasting peace.

May Cuba with all its magnificent potential open itself up to the world and may the world open itself up to Cuba so that this people which is looking for the truth which is working to progress and which longs for comfort and peace may look to the future with hope

With confidence in the Lord, and feeling very close to the beloved sons and daughters of Cuba, I thank you with all my heart for this warm welcome which my pastoral visit is beginning. I commend this visit to the maternal protection of the blessed virgin of Charity of El Cobre.

I cordially bless you all, specially the poor, the sick, the marginalized and all those suffering in body or spirit.

Praised be Jesus Christ