Benedict views his papacy — and his visit to Mexico and Cuba — as a continuation and a fulfillment of the pontificate of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, a man who personally experienced the horrors of totalitarian rule and aroused the consciences of enslaved peoples with his repeated call: “Be not afraid.”
While many Cubans hoped the Holy Father would offer a more explicit critique of the island’s totalitarian government, he seized various opportunities to defend human dignity and challenge communist rule.
In a widely reported statement, he observed that “Marxist ideology, as it was conceived, no longer responds to reality” in Cuba.
Just as John Paul once reminded Cold War-era tyrants that religious freedom and other fundamental human rights take priority over assertions of state power, Benedict’s decision to mark the 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity, the revered Cuban Marian icon, reminded the Castro regime of Catholicism’s deeper roots on the island — and of the likelihood that the Church would survive totalitarian rule.
Economic and political reform will not serve the common good unless they are accompanied by the “indispensable public contribution that religion is called to make in the life of society.”
Indeed, this public witness signals a deeper truth that real and effective social and political change is anchored in the spiritual and moral transformation of the individual conscience.
“I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity and which better reflects the goodness of God.”