TAG | John Paul II
The Wall Street Journal reports on the Pope’s visit to Cuba here.
One incident at the start of the papal visit left little doubt as to the state of political freedom in Cuba. Before an outdoor mass in Cuba’s second city of Santiago, an unidentified man yelled anti-government slogans before being bundled off by security agents.
Video of the incident showed him being escorted out from the crowd and accosted by an apparent first aid worker wearing a white T-shirt with a large red cross.
The Vatican confirmed the incident, but said it had no further information.
Cuban dissident groups expressed concern for the young man’s safety and urged the government to release him unharmed. “Until now, we’ve been unable to locate the whereabouts of this man who protested peacefully and was assaulted … and beat violently,” said a statement by Elizardo Sánchez, who leads a group that tracks detentions
I may be wrong, but I cannot see that sort of thing happening in the course of John Paul II’s visits to Communist Poland.
And then this:
On his way to Mexico last week, the pope bluntly criticized Cuba’s official orthodoxy, saying Marxism “no longer corresponds to reality.”
No longer? When did it ever?
But on the island itself, the pope’s message has focused heavily on spiritual matters, and his potential criticisms of Cuba’s regime have been oblique and open to interpretation.
Again, contrast the behavior of John Paul II when, as Pope, he returned on a number of occasions to a homeland still under Communist rule. The code that he used to criticize the regime was easy to translate and sometimes it wasn’t even (really)code.
See, for example, this description of the Pope’s words at a mass held at Solidarity’s Gdansk birthplace:
The highlight of the 1987 visit was John Paul’s homily during his “Mass for the working people” in Gdansk-Zaspa (the district of Gdansk where Lech Walesa lived). In this homily, delivered on “Solidarity’s” and Walesa’s home turf, John Paul II spoke openly to delirious applause: “There cannot be a struggle more powerful than solidarity. There cannot be an agenda for struggle above the agenda of solidarity”. (Note the characteristic ambiguity: solidarity or “Solidarity”? Is he speaking religion or politics? Is he talking about moral or political struggle?) After an interval of deafening applause, he added the most famous words of this visit, which also rank among the most famous of all his words: “That’s exactly what I want to talk about, so let the Pope speak, since he wants to speak about you, and in some sense for you”. In his visits to post-communist Poland in the 1990s, John Paul referred to these words several times as expressing one of his main missions during his earlier visits: to give voice to the silenced nation, to speak what they could not and to speak in their name to those who would not talk with them, as well as to the world at large
To be fair, the Roman Catholic Church was much more of a national symbol in Poland (even if we exclude the extraordinary impact on a captive nation of seeing one of their own being made Pope) than it is in Cuba today, and, to be no less fair, this current Pope may yet surprise his hosts in Havana.
Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that, when it comes to confronting a dictatorship, Ratzinger is more Glemp than Wojtyła.