During the interview with journalists on the flight from Santiago de Cuba to Washington, dc, the Pope characterized his visit to the Caribbean island as “very pastoral”, in support of Catholics. His comment explicitly confirmed an intention that seemed evident to anyone following the stops on the papal itinerary. What must be added to this is his clear support — thanks to the unexpected decision to consolidate his visits to Cuba and the United States into the same journey — for the current rapprochement of the two countries, to which the respective Catholic episcopates contributed and which was encouraged, with discretion, by the good offices of the Holy See.
The Cuban segment of this American journey meaningfully concluded, amid throngs of faithful, with two touching events: a Mass at the national Marian Shrine of El Cobre, and a celebration with families in Santiago, an ostensible introduction to the highly anticipated World Meeting in Philadelphia and the imminent Assembly of the Synod. After a warm and enthusiastic welcome at each location, the Pontiff drew upon the Gospel episodes of Mary’s visitation of Elizabeth and of the wedding feast at Cana to once again present the mission of the Church and the irreplaceable role of the family. His words were most certainly meant to extend beyond the people of Cuba.
During the final meeting of his three days in Cuba the Pontiff sang the praises of the family, the domestic church and the place where “the past which we inherit meets the future which awaits us”. Here indeed, in our daily encounters, “we learn fraternity and solidarity”, life’s welcome and forgiveness. Certainly, he added, “these spaces are shrinking, these experiences of family are disappearing”. But the family saves us from two phenomena: from fragmentation and homogenization, which otherwise transform people “into isolated individuals, easy to manipulate and to rule”, Bergoglio said emphatically.At the heart of his meditation in El Cobre was something quite dear to Bergoglio: the apprehension, following the Angel’s annunciation, which spurs Our Lady to visit her elderly relative, and which likewise must encourage the Church to “leave home”, in the example of the Virgin, who in Cuba “has watched over the struggles of those who fought to defend the rights of their children”. No problems have never extinguished faith, which is kept alive among the countless difficulties of “grandmothers, mothers, and so many others who with tenderness and love were signs of visitation, ... of valour and faith” in so many families. Today, “our revolution comes about through tenderness”, and leads us to go forth from its chapels and its sacristies “to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation”, the Pope exclaimed.
Thus, families, the very places where humanity learns, are not a problem but an opportunity “which we have to take care of, protect, support”. They are the schools of tomorrow, spaces of freedom and centres of humanity, Pope Francis synthesized. Therefore, on the eve of the Philadelphia Meeting and that of the Synod, it is important to pray that we may know how to help one another to take care of the family, uncovering that God who lives among his people and makes the family his home.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 20, 2019
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