HAVANA (CNS) — In response to the “aspirations, the hopes and the frustrations of the children of God” the bishops of Cuba urged Cubans to embrace a vision for better future for their country.
Acknowledging that Cuba has “changed in recent years” and that “present conditions are different from those of the past,” the bishops said nevertheless that “a new generation of Cubans lives with the firm desire of a future that may be better than the present one.”
The call came in a pastoral letter released Sept. 15 as part of the Cuban church’s observance of the Year of Faith.
The letter, “La Esperanza No Defrauda” (“Hope Never Disappoints”), was released on the 20th anniversary of the bishops’ pastoral letter on love. That letter, “El Amor Todo Lo Espera” (Love Hopes for Everything), also saw found the bishops analyzing life in the island nation and offering suggestions for renewal and change.
The letter was released by posting it on the Cuban bishops conference website and by distributing it to Catholic communities throughout Cuba for presentation at Sunday Masses.
The suggestions offered by the bishops emerged from a commitment to announce the Gospel based on observations of the political and cultural reality facing the country, the clerics said.
The letter recognizes that some of the suggestions offered two decades ago have been implemented but that others await action. The bishops said that for future conditions to improve, it is necessary to press forward with the reforms already initiated in Cuba.
“The best legacy we can leave future generations is, precisely, to work for a better today,” the bishops wrote. To make this happen, they asked Cubans to commit to living with a “hope that never disappoints.”
The pastoral letter said that true freedom implies responsibility toward others. They implored Cubans to think about others and to abandon the mentality that the strongest prevails or that of “I am free to do whatever pleases me.”
They also addressed government officials, reminding them of “your obligation to seek the wellbeing of all,” taking into account “the just interests of each group that is part of our society.” They called for replacing a paternalistic state with a participatory one, without fearing “the development of a strong and responsible social autonomy, enabled from the bottom up.”
The bishops recalled the words of Blessed John Paul II during his visit to Cuba in 1998, saying that they underline the fact that the Catholic Church aims to serve all people without distinction of religion, race, age, sex, social condition or political opinions.
The new pastoral letter offered suggestions in areas that go beyond strictly religious matters. It addressed topics such as the use of material goods, freedom and the need for Cuba to have a well-defined economic program. It asked for a new political order and it stressed that only through dialogue can Cuba be transformed.
The bishops expressed their trust that an even wider process of reforms may continue for the good of the population. They said they are aware of existing internal resistance to change, in part because of the uncertainty it may cause. But they added that such resistance also is caused, in part, to “a mentality and way of thinking fed by the ideological elements that were originally present, have been retained over time regardless of the changing reality, and therefore, in the opinion of many, contain many aspects that are obsolete and not viable” for today.
The pastoral letter asked for “the right to diversity in terms of thinking, of creativity, of the seeking of truth.” The bishops borrowed from the words of Pope Francis when he addressed leaders in Brazil in July in calling for “a culture of encounter, a culture where everyone has something to contribute and everyone can receive something good in exchange.”
The bishops also moved beyond national concerns to offer proposals about Cuba and its relations with other nations, specifically about its relations with the United States. They also expressed concern for the Cuban family and young people, asking youths to seek the truth, to reject the temptation of an “existential void” and to take on the task of building not only the Cuba of the future but also the Cuba of today.
The pastoral letter acknowledged recent signs of hope that have emerged: the fruits of the Marian Jubilee Year of 2012 that united all Cubans under the Mother of God, Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba, and the visits of Blessed John Paul II in 1998 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, who made clear “not only the religious dimension, but also the human and social dimension of the evangelizing mission of the church.”