Cuba Headlines

Cuba News, Breaking News, Articles and Daily Information

Vatican cardinal unveils statue of Pope John Paul II marking 10th anniversary of Cuba visit
Thousands attending an open-air Mass applauded as Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, pulled off a white cloth to reveal the bronze likeness of a smiling John Paul, waving with his right hand and holding his papal staff in the other.

Three times as tall as an average adult, the statue came from Rome as a gift from the Vatican and was placed in Santa Clara as the site of John Paul's first Mass during his January 1998 visit. It is inscribed: "Open the doors to Christ."

Benedict "charged me with telling all of you that you have a place in the pope's hearts," Tarcisio told worshippers.

Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega said during a Mass with Bertone on Thursday that he hoped the cardinal's visit would be followed by one by Benedict. A grinning Bertone responded: "The Holy Father heard well with his own ears the invitation of Cuba's cardinal tonight. We hope that in the future the Holy Father can visit"

Bertone arrived in Cuba on Wednesday, coincidentally one day after Fidel Castro announced that he was going to step down as president. Bertone was to meet with Cuban officials in Havana on Monday, a day after the parliament is to choose Castro's replacement.

On Saturday, a crowd of thousands stretched for 10 blocks down a wide, divided boulevard in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, which features another famed statue: of guerrilla fighter Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Most worshippers wore white T-shirts reading "Messenger of Truth and Hope" over a picture of John Paul. Others wore baseball caps or clutched paper fans with the image of the late pontiff.

"This is not only a religious visit but also, we could say, political, because it unites our church with our government," said Santa Clara resident Maria Teresa Cala.

Daisy Pablo, a 45-year-old health worker who ministers to hospital patients in her spare time, called the statue of the pope "a gift from God" that "fills us with happiness."

In Santiago, near the extreme eastern end of the island, more Roman Catholics awaited Bertone's visit Saturday evening to pay homage to the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba's patron saint. John Paul crowned the image during his 1998 visit.

Outside the Virgin of Charity's sanctuary in the town of El Cobre, most of the hordes of vendors who typically sell wooden renderings of the saint and other mementos were gone in the hours before Bertone's arrival, and there was a strong presence of uniformed Interior Ministry soldiers.

Gisela Mustelier, a 55-year-old local resident, visited the sanctuary the night before the service with curlers in her hair "so I can look elegant when I come tomorrow."

The Rev. Jorge Palma, the sanctuary's chaplain, said about 4,000 people were expected for the rosary service led by Bertone, featuring choral and other music.

Visitors to the sanctuary regularly leave floral wreaths and other gifts to the 16-inch figure, dressed in an elaborate golden gown and wearing dangling earrings.

The statue was discovered by three men from this former copper mining town in the nearby Bay of Nipe in the early 17th century before being brought to El Cobre.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Related News