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Pope's schedule for Cuba has political implications

Catholic World News - March 19, 2012

During his visit to Cuba later this month, Pope Benedict XVI will meet privately with the Fidel Castro if the longtime Cuban leader is available, Vatican officials say. But the Pontiff will not meet with political dissidents.

A meeting with Fidel Castro is not on the Pope’s schedule, but officials say that the Holy Father will make time to meet with the ailng Cuban leader. His willingness to arrange a private meeting with Castro has sparked some protests from enemies of the authoritarian Cuban regime, who have protested that the Pope’s visit will not include a meeting with political dissidents. Those protests grew more vocal when police, responding to a request from the Havana archdiocese, ousted demonstrators who had organized a vigil at the city’s cathedral, hoping for force a meeting with the Pontiff.

After years of openly repressing the Catholic faith, the Cuban government has offered more freedom to the Church, and the government’s concessions are evident in the plans for the papal visit. The government allowed Havan’s Carindal Jaime Ortega Alamino to make a nationally televised address about the Pope’s trip, and government workers will be given paid leave to attend papal liturgies. Havana’s main air terminal will be closed down On March 26 the main air terminal in Havana will be closed down except for the Pope’s arriving plane.

In Mexico, where the Pope will stop before his visit to Cuba, one element is conspicuously missing from the schedule of events. On other foreign trips the Pope has set up a meeting with victims of sexual abuse. No such meeting is on his schedule in Mexico, and Vatican officials say that none is expected. The Mexican bishops did not ask for a meeting of that sort, they explain. The Mexican hierarchy has been badly scarred by the revelations that the late Father Marciel Macial, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ and a native of Mexico, had been accused of molesting young man.

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