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The 2012 papal visit: a view from Havana.

Pope Benedict XVI's call for changes in Cuba and the world should also focus on churches, say members of Cuban civil society who, independently of their beliefs or ideologies, recognized the impact of the pope's visit to this socialist nation.

Convinced many people "will not yet fully comprehend" the real importance of Benedict's Mar. 26-28 visit, Rev. Raimundo Garcia told IPS that the Catholic Church is demonstrating its power of renewal "amidst very complicated circumstances."

"It is evident that Cuba increasingly does not match the image that many have of it being frozen in space and time," the retired pastor of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba said via email.

Garcia, who's also director of the Christian Center for Reflection and Dialogue in Cuba, acknowledged what he called the church's "capacity for dialogue" with the government. "This might be the right time to reach out," he said.

Fourteen years after Pope John Paul II's visit--which was considered a turning point in relations between the Catholic Church and the Cuban state--Benedict found a society that is increasingly heterogeneous, Catholic intellectuals Roberto Veiga and Lenier Gonzalez acknowledged in a joint response to questions from IPS.

Espacio Laical, a magazine of the Havana archdiocese's lay council, editorialized that by outlining "how much remains to be done to achieve a better country," Benedict promoted truth and life, marriage and the family, freedom and justice, dialogue and social inclusion, forgiveness and reconciliation.

This proposal, the magazine's editors added, consists of the need for "a methodology of relating to and accompanying an extremely diverse society, in which movements are taking shape that defend agendas related to religious, environmental, immigration, sexual orientation, gender and political issues."

They also cited the need to include both Cubans on the island and in the diaspora.

"Some emigres do not want any ties with their homeland or political groups, on either end of the spectrum, and do not agree with dialogue and consensus as a methodology for building the country," the two editors said in their response.

The word "dialogue" is at the center of many analyses on this issue, including among communists and sexual rights activists like Dr. Alberto Roque, who published an article on his blog,, questioning whether or not the Catholic Church also "perceives itself as part of the world" that must change.

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Geographic Code:5CUBA
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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