Speaking to the American people regarding the embargo at a reporter's urging, the Holy Father said in English, "To change, to change." He added, "It seems to me that in the United States the papal visit is followed with deep interest. Perhaps ... both Cuba and the United States are looking for a better future -- both." The Pontiff was also asked what he wanted to hear from Cuban President Fidel Castro to which he replied: "I want to hear above all the truth. That he tells me this truth, that belongs to him, as a president, a man and a 'commandante', so to speak, of the revolution."
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald newspaper reported today that Cuba's intelligence agency has spied on the Catholic Church for decades including enrolling spies in seminaries. The information came to the newspaper from three Cuban defectors including a former army colonel who served as aide to Castro's brother, Raul, and two former officials in the Interior Ministry which is in charge of national security. "The Church was always seen as a danger, because it is the only force inside the country capable of bringing people together and even organizing a subtle form of resistance," one Interior Ministry defector said.
"Not even the Pope's trip to the Latin American Eucharistic Congress in Lima or his trip to Chile aroused so many expectations at a Latin American level," said Archbishop Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of CELAM. "Absolutely all Latin American countries, as well as the Unites States and Canada, are represented by delegations that would have been even larger, if it wasn't because of some restrictions," Archbishop Rodriguez explained.
He said the largest Latin American delegations are from Mexico and the Venezuela. The Mexican group is headed by Cardinal-designate Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico city who is joined by 11 other Mexican bishops and 650 pilgrims. Cardinal-designate Rivera also confirmed that the delegation is bringing a $50,000 donation from Mexico City's parishes to help Cubans.
The second largest delegation, from Venezuela, is headed by Archbishop Tulio Manuel Chirivella, President of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference. The delegation includes 82 year-old Cuban Bishop Eduardo Boza Masvidal, a former auxiliary bishop of Havana who was deported from Cuba by Fidel Castro. Boza, with 120 other exiled Cubans will return to the country for the first time in almost 40 years. Bishop Boza is now auxiliary of the Venezuelan diocese of Los Teques.
Brazil and Argentina are also sending significant delegations. Seven Brazilian bishops, including Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, head of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, and Rio's Archbishop Eugenio Araujo de Sales, are leading 120 pilgrims. Argentina, with five bishops, including Cardinal Francisco Primatesta and Archbishop Estanislao Karlic, president of the Argentine Bishops' Conference, are heading a group of around 100 Catholics."Nobody will be absent from this feast which is not only Cuban but also American," said Archbishop Rodriguez. "Even countries as poor as Haiti, Paraguay, and Honduras are ensuring a presence."
Castro appealed to all Cubans, believers and non-believers alike, to welcome the Holy Father, a move sure to be interpreted as an order to the Communist Party faithful from their leader. The move means that Cuba's bishops will find it harder to claim that it was the Church's public urgings and the Pope's message that mobilized the populace to turn out. In his address, Castro also made it clear that he would attend the papal Mass in Havana's Revolution Square next Sunday.
Meanwhile, Cuban human rights groups denied published reports that the papal visit has been preceded by a crackdown on dissidents by Communist authorities. Elizardo Sanchez told The Associated Press that arrests, harassment, and threats overall are greater than in past years, but said the number of confirmed political prisoners in Cuba has fallen sharply over the past year. The Washington-based group Human Rights Watch/Americas said last week that the government was warning some dissidents to avoid papal Masses during the visit. "Pressure is definitely increasing against dissidents," said spokesman Sarah DeCosse.
Archbishop John Favalora wrote in a letter read at Masses in the archdiocese over the weekend, "The Holy Father will be in our neighborhood. We have the opportunity to join in prayer with our brothers and sisters of the suffering Church in Cuba just across the Florida straits." The papal visit has caused controversy in south Florida's large Cuban-American population with one side refusing to support the pilgrimage for fear that it would also lend support to Fidel Castro's regime while another side praised the trip because if the hope and prospects for change it engenders.
The Archdiocese of Miami had initially intended to take a cruise ship to Havana to attend the papal Mass in Revolution Square on Sunday, but canceled the pilgrimage following pressure from exile business and political leaders. Instead Archbishop Favalora will lead a one-day trip to Havana for a smaller group by airplane. The archbishop asked Catholics to fast and abstain and attend Mass daily beginning on Wednesday.