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Return to America

Benedict XVI’s Journey to Mexico and Cuba can be described as a return for two reasons: because it is in continuity with the successive visits of his Predecessor — “in complete continuity”, he said, talking to journalists while the aircraft was flying over England — and because he had already been to this great American country at the beginning of the 1990s. He is now returning as Pope, introducing himself with simplicity on arrival as a pilgrim of faith, hope and charity, opening his arms to embrace all the countries of Latin America which have just celebrated the bicentenary of their Independence. Truly, he came “to greet all Mexicans” and, in spirit, all Latin Americans and received a cordial welcome from President Felipe Calderón, as well as an extremely warm one from the citizens of León who lined the streets in thousands to honour him. Calling to mind expressly the famous incipit of one of the great documents of Vatican ii — the Council that opened half a century ago, whose anniversary will inaugurate a new Year of Faith in October, after the one desired by Paul VI — Benedict XVI said that he shared in Mexico’s joy and hope ( gaudium et spes ) but also in its sorrows and its painful difficulties. He has come back here to bring encouragement and comfort in the struggle of good against evil. And today there is a “great evil”, drug trafficking, which the Pope described in his book Light of the World as a monster that might warp itself around the world and destroy the youngest generations.

In the face of this scourge and of the scourge of unbridled violence, the Church must be aware of her own responsibility in a country where the vast majority are Catholic. God loves human beings and calls them to fight evil: to expose — a term that Benedict XVI uses twice in his meeting with the journalists — the idolatry and money that enslave, and the deceit that destroys happiness for ever. This responsibility is put into practice in the education of the conscience and the Church is called precisely to this commitment, questioning herself constantly on what she should do to meet the world’s needs. Indeed, since she is not a political power, and even less a party, her task is to lead to authentic faith in a society that is endangered by schizophrenia between the individual and public spheres, where all to often there is a tendency to eliminate the religious dimension.

The Visit to Cuba is also in perfect continuity with John Paul II’s visit and with his words — described by his Successor as “very timely” — on the need for reciprocal openness between the great Caribbean Island and the world. Pope Wojtyła marked out a path of collaboration, which is long and calls for patience: the Marxist ideology, in fact, does not correspond with reality, new routes must be found for a brotherly and just society and obviously the Church is always on the side of freedom. In a continental scenario urgently in need of the New Evangelization, launched by the Council, and confronting a secularized world which has difficulty in perceiving God as a reality. On the contrary, he is a God who responds to reason and, at the same time, to the intuition of the heart; for the God who is a friend of men and women and desires their salvation is close to each and every person.

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