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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 23, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 12
Pope to visit Cuba, Cubans not sure they want him
Section One
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Pope to visit Cuba, Cubans not sure they want him

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba, scheduled to begin March 26, is already controversial.

Anti-government activists were stunned when Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega called police to arrest 13 non-violent protestors occupying Havana's Our Lady of Charity church to draw international attention to their criticism of the regime.

'Nobody has the right to convert the churches into political trenches,' the church said in a press release.

'Nobody has the right to disrupt the celebratory spirit of the faithful Cubans, and many other citizens, who await with joy and hope the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba.'

On the other hand, Cuban bloggers, many of them from Cuba's LGBT community, greeted the Pope's visit with something less than 'joy and hope.'

Once forced underground by government repression, in recent years the LGBT community has become increasingly visible. President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela is a leading LGBT rights activist, and in 2010, her uncle Fidel publicly apologized for suppressing LGBT Cubans.

Global Voices, a collective project of more than 500 bloggers and translators who publish online reports from around the world, has translated several posts critical of the papal visit.

Yasmín Silvia Portales, who describes herself as 'Marxist, non-heterosexual, and Afro-descendant,' challenged Catholic claims to be Cuba's 'national religion.'

'I think that if we have to identify a national religion,' she wrote, 'no one can deny that the competition is between the ones of African origin. These religions became something new in Cuba.

'The symbols and cultural biases of Afro-Cuban religions traverse the common sense of what is 'Cuban' without considering class, race, or gender. In addition, these religions are popular in the best sense of the word.'

She went on to criticize the Pope's positions on 'the recent scandals of pedophiles faced by the Catholic Church, the use of condoms, and the right to divorce.'

Blogger Francisco Rodríguez, popularly known as Paquito el de Cuba, used Catholic symbolism to mock the Pope and Cardinal Ortega.

'The Virgin of Charity is certainly much more than a religious symbol,' he wrote.

'Her legend is part of Cuban culture, a source of spirituality for many people and a source of inspiration and unity throughout much of our national history.

'Benedict XVI is not the Virgin or a saint, nor do I believe he represents any human value which I feel a part of. I understand, however, that his presence in Cuba would be positive and help from the political point of view the country's foreign relations and dialogue with a sector of our population.'

The popular blog El Nictalope called attention to papal homophobia.

'For years [Benedict XVI] has attracted public attention because of his obsessive demonstrations against the rights of homosexuals and Transsexuals. Hardly a month goes by without the pope, suddenly, railing against homofamilies and equal marriage.

'Paradoxically, he seems to have been slow and reluctant to [notice] cases of child abuse by priests.'

Benedict will arrive in Mexico March 23 and then travel to Cuba on March 26. Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998.

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