Since Pope Benedict’s departure from Cuba last week, the vigorous debate about his visit continues. Despite open appeals from human rights advocates, Benedict did not meet personally with any of the country’s dissidents, even as he met with the Castro brothers. However, in all his major addresses, he did speak out for freedom and human dignity in ways that clearly rebuked a regime which has constantly violated them. Even some critical of the pope’s prudential decisions expressed appreciation for “the depth of what His Holiness was saying.”
In a perceptive piece for the Christian Science Monitor, Anya Landau French tried to capture all the factors involved, commenting, “it’s hard to imagine what prominent figure really could sway Cuba’s leaders off of their course,” and went on to describe the almost “impossible situation” the Church is in—trying to maintain the modest freedoms its been granted, without looking like they are collaborating with a brutal regime. That the pope’s visit coincided with another crackdown on the regime’s opponents only underscores the point.
In the midst of this debate, there is at least one victory Benedict can already look to: the Cuban authorities have granted his request to have Good Friday declared a national holiday (just as Christmas was finally permitted after Blessed John Paul II’s 1998 visit). Its unknown if this will be lasting, or just a one-time event, but to have the Son of God’s passion and death publicly honored in a formerly atheist state is welcome news.
The Communists doubtless see this as a way to give Cuba an aura of “tolerance” it does not deserve, but it is equally true that even bad Communist motives cannot diminish the objective power of God in the public square.
This is a spiritual, not a political, victory, for the country’s courageous dissidents remain in Cuban prisons, or under tight surveillance.
Their fight goes on as Christ—not the Castros, or Che Gueverra-is finally recognized by a regime that tried to crush His image, sacrifice and mission for 50 years. Their sufferings are His, and so shall be their political triumph, when they finally achieve it. After Good Friday, Easter always comes.