[IWAR] CUBA Pope attacks communism

From: 7Pillars Partners (partnersat_private)
Date: Thu Jan 22 1998 - 20:16:16 PST

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    Pope Attacks Communism at First Mass in Cuba
    By Philip Pullella 
    SANTA CLARA, Cuba (Reuters) - Pope John Paul II lost no time Thursday in
    criticizing communist Cuba, saying no ideology
    could replace Christianity and launching a sharp attack on the vaunted state
    education system. 
    The pontiff, who arrived Wednesday for a landmark five-day visit, flew 180
    miles east of Havana Thursday to celebrate an
    outdoor Mass in the central city of Santa Clara. 
    A crowd of about 50,000 gathered before an altar in the shape of a thatched
    hut, waving Cuban flags and cheering when the
    frail 77-year-old pontiff arrived in his popemobile. 
    The pope's first homily of his five-day visit, in the town where revolutionary
    icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara's remains are buried,
    signaled he would have no qualms about criticizing Cuba's society or politics. 
    In a clear attack on communist rule, the pontiff said, "No ideology can replace
    his (Christ's) infinite wisdom and power," adding:
    "There is a need to recover  loopbvalues at the level of the family and of
    He added: "Do not be afraid; open your families and schools to the values of
    the gospel of Jesus Christ, which are never a
    threat to any social projects." 
    In an address that centered on family values, he lamented what he called "an
    acceptance of abortion, which is always, in
    addition to being an abominable crime, a senseless impoverishment of the person
    and of societlf". 
    The pontiff noted Cuba's economic crisis since the early 1990s, saying this had
    created difficulties for family stability including
    "dissatisfaction for ideological reasons" and had intensified the problem of
    people emigrating. 
    But his strongest criticism was reserved for the educational system. 
    Without naming them, he referred to the island's rural boarding schools, which
    almost all Cuban adolescents are obliged to
    attend from age 14. 
    The pope said they often caused "traumatic" separation between parents and
    children. Such experiences put young people in
    situations that resulted in "the spread of promiscuous behavior, loss of
    ethical values, coarseness, premarital sexual relations at
    an early age and easy recourse to abortion". 
    "All this has a profoundly negative impact on young people," the pope said. His
    comments struck right at the heart of one of
    aspects of the Cuban revolution of which the government is most proud -- its
    free and universal education. 
    In his welcoming speech for the pope Wednesday, Castro listed education as one
    of the main achievements of the Cuban
    revolution, telling John Paul he would be hard-pressed to find another country
    where they were fewer children without
    The rural schools are dreaded by some parents, who would prefer to keep their
    offspring under their control for a few more
    years and complain that the relaxed co-ed environment leads to early and casual
    sex, and to unwanted teenage pregnancies. 
    Official figures show there were some 83,827 abortions for 140,276 births in
    Cuba in 1996 -- one of the highest rates in the
    The pope also openly urged a liberalization of education to allow a place for
    religion in Cuba, where all Church schools were
    nationalized in the early 1960s. 
    "Parents...should be able to choose for their children the pedagogical method,
    the ethical and civic content and the religious
    inspiration which will enable them to receive an integral education," he said. 
    The pope's outspoken attack in a nationally televised Mass was all the more
    extraordinary in a country where all media is state
    controlled and where criticism is usually confined to Cubans grumbling in their
    homes, or to dissidents. 
    It reflected the risk President Fidel Castro has taken by inviting him to
    The veteran Cuban leader has said the papal visit presents no threat to the
    revolution, stressing the points on which he and the
    pontiff agree and urging a warm welcome for him. 
    In a last-minute decision, authorities broadcast the first Mass live on one of
    Cuba's state television channels, rather than only on
    a local station as previously announced. 
    Before the pope reached the Mass site in Santa Clara, the crowd, led by a
    priest, chanted rhyming slogans including: "John Paul
    our brother, Cubans love you...Long live the pope...You can hear it , you can
    feel it, John Paul is present." 
    Above the Mass site, a huge portrait of the pope was erected on a hill where
    Che's guerrilla forces launched their attack to
    seize the city in December 1958, a key victory in the revolution that swept
    Castro to power. 
    In the early years of the Cuban revolution, Catholics were discriminated
    against for practising their faith but the Church's
    relations with Castro's government have improved steadily in recent years and
    the pope's visit has sparked a surge in church
    The pontiff flew back to Havana after the Mass and was due to meet Castro for
    private talks later in the day. 

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