Republic of Cuba President Raul Castro greets Pope Benedict XVI during his arrival in the Caribbean country. The Pope called for the lifting of the US embargo on the socialist state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Havana. March 27, 2012
In the name of the nation, I offer you our warmest welcome
• Speech given by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, at the ceremony welcoming His Holiness Benedict XVI, at Santiago de Cuba’s Antonio Maceo Airport, March 26, 2012, Year 54 of the Revolution
(Typecast version: Council of State)
Cuba receives you with affection and respect and is honored by your presence. You will find here an educated people committed to solidarity who have proposed to attain full justice and have made great sacrifices.
We learned from [José] Martí to fully worship the dignity of human beings and inherited the fraternal formula which we have followed through today, "with all and for the good of all."
Cintio Vitier, the eminent intellectual and Christian, wrote, "The true face of the homeland… is the face of justice and freedom," and that "the nation has no other alternative: it is either independent or absolutely not."
The strongest power known to history has attempted to dispossess us, fruitlessly, of the right to freedom, peace and justice. With patriotic virtue and ethical principles, the Cuban people have put up a tenacious resistance, knowing that we are also exercising a legitimate right in following our own path, defending our culture and ennobling ourselves with the contributions of the most advanced ideas.
Erroneously, Cuba is defamed, but we trust that the truth from which we have never departed will always prevail.
Fourteen years after Pope John Paul II visited us, the economic, political and media blockade of Cuba persists and has even been tightened in the financial sector. As it is stated in the United States Memorandum of April 1960, declassified years later, its objective continues to be (I quote) "…to cause hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government."
However, the nation has continued, invariably, changing everything that must be changed, in accordance with the highest aspirations of the Cuban people and with their free participation in the essential decisions of our society, including economic and social ones which, almost all over the world, are the province of exclusive political and financial elites.
Various generations of compatriots have come together in the struggle for lofty ideals and noble objectives. We have confronted scarcity, but we have never failed in our duty to share with those who have less.
Solely as a demonstration of how much can be done if solidarity prevails, I mention that in the last decade, with the help of Cuba, tens of thousands of doctors from other countries have been trained, 2.2 million people of low income have had their vision restored or improved, and a contribution has been made to teaching 5.8 illiterate people to read and write. I can assure you that, within our modest possibilities, our international cooperation will continue.
We are commemorating the fourth centenary of the discovery and presence of the image of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, who bears the national shield embroidered on her cloak.
The recent pilgrimage of the Virgin throughout the country brought together our people, believers and non-believers, in an act of great significance.
You are awaited in Santiago de Cuba, a city which has been the protagonist of glorious episodes in the history of Cubans’ struggle for their definitive independence and also in the town of El Cobre, where the Spanish crown was compelled to grant freedom to the uprising slaves in the mines, 80 years before the abolition of that infamous institution in our country.
We are satisfied with the close relations between the Holy See and Cuba, which have developed uninterruptedly over 76 years, always on the basis of mutual respect and agreement on issues which are vital to humanity.
Our government and the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church in Cuba maintain good relations.
The Cuban Constitution enshrines and guarantees full religious freedom for all citizens and, on this basis, the government maintains good relations with all religions and religious institutions in our country.
Almost 20 years ago, Fidel surprised many people by proclaiming, "An important biological species is at risk of disappearing on account of the rapid and progressive liquidation of the natural conditions of life: humankind," he concluded.
There are growing threats to peace and the existence of vast nuclear arsenals is another serious danger for human beings. After oil, water or food will be the cause of the next wars of plunder. With the resources dedicated to producing deadly weapons, poverty could be eliminated. The astounding development of science and technology is not to be found in the service of solving the major problems afflicting human beings. Frequently they serve to create conditioned reflexes or to manipulate public opinion. Finances are an oppressive power.
Instead of solidarity, a systemic crisis is being generated, provoked by irrational consumption in affluent societies. An infinitesimally small portion of the population is accumulating vast wealth while the number of poor, hungry, sick people lacking medical attention and the homeless is growing.
In the industrialized world, the indignados are no longer prepared to tolerate injustice and, especially among the young, a lack of confidence in social and ideological models which are destroying spiritual values and producing exclusion and selfishness is growing.
It is a fact that the global crisis has a moral dimension as well, and that many governments lack any connection with the citizens they say they serve. Corruption in politics and the lack of true democracy are ills of our time.
On these and other issues we note our agreement with your ideas.
In the face of such challenges, Our America is uniting in its sovereignty and attempting an integration more based on solidarity in order to make real the bicentennial dream of its independence leaders.
Your Holiness may address a people of profound convictions who will listen to you attentively and respectfully.
In the name of the nation, I offer you our warmest welcome.
Thank you very much.