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Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Vatican City, 4 April 2012 (VIS) - Benedict XVI dedicated his remarks during this morning's general audience today to his recent trip to Mexico and Cuba by which, he said "I sought to embrace the entire continent, inviting everyone to live together in hope in concrete commitment to united progress towards a better future". The audience was held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 11,000 people.

The Holy Father recalled the reasons for his journey: The bicentenary of the independence of Mexico and other Latin America countries, the twentieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See, and the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the image of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre" in Cuba.

The Pope noted how his visit had been characterised by "the extraordinary, festive and vivacious welcome" of Mexicans, a sign of "the warm embrace of an entire people". He specifically mentioned his stay in the city of Leon where, in the presence of the civil and religious authorities, he had "underscored the need to recognise and protect fundamental human rights, among which religious freedom is particularly important", and had given guarantees of his "closeness to those who suffer social ills such as conflicts, old and new, corruption and violence". Nonetheless, he remarked, the widespread enthusiasm bore witness "to the tenacious hope of Mexican Christians, a hope that remains alive in peoples' hearts despite moments of difficulty".

Also in Leon, the Pope met with children and adolescents, whose joy "expressed the deep-felt desire of all young people in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean to live in peace, serenity and harmony, in a just and reconciled society".

The Holy Father continued his reminiscences: "The Lord's disciples must seek to augment the joy of being Christian and the joy of belonging to the Church. Such joy foments the energies necessary to serve Christ in situations of difficulty and suffering". For this reason the Pope had exhorted the thousands of faithful participating in Sunday Mass in Leon's Parque Bicentenario "to trust in the goodness of Almighty God, which can transform unbearable and incomprehensible situations from within, from the heart". He had also expressed his gratitude "to those who spread the Gospel in complex situations beset with restrictions".

Benedict XVI had left Mexico calling on the Mexican people "to remain faithful to the Lord and His Church, firmly anchored in their Christian roots".

The Pope then turned his attention to the Cuban leg of his journey. "I went there", he said, "to support the mission of the Catholic Church, which is committed to the joyful announcement of the Gospel, notwithstanding limited means and despite the difficulties which still have to be overcome before religion can offer its spiritual and educational services in the public arena". The Holy Father highlighted the good relations that exist between the State and the Holy See, relations "which aim to serve the living and constructive presence of the local Church. I also gave assurances that the Pope carries the concerns and aspirations of all Cubans in his heart, especially those suffering due to restrictions on freedom".

"One moment of intense spirituality", the Pope recalled, was the first Mass he celebrated on Cuban soil, marking the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the image of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre", patron of the island. The thousands of people who turned out for the ceremony were the "sign of a Church which is emerging from a difficult situation, but which has a vivacious witness of charity and an active presence in people's lives".

"I invited Cuban Catholics and the entire population, who are hoping for a better future, to give renewed vigour to their faith and, with the courage to forgive and comprehend, so as to help build an open and renewed society, where there is ever more space for God, because without God the world becomes an inhospitable place for mankind".

On the second stage of his Cuban journey, Havana, the young "were the main participants in the enthusiastic welcome I received as I made my way to the nunciature. There I was able to meet with local bishops to discuss the challenges the Cuban Church is called to face, in the awareness that people are looking to her with increasing trust", the Pope said.

During Mass on Sunday morning "I reminded everyone that Cuba and the world need change. This will only come about if everyone opens to the integral truth about man (an indispensable premise in order to achieve freedom) and decides to spread reconciliation and fraternity. ... I also underlined the fact that the Church does not seek privileges, but asks to be able to proclaim and celebrate the faith, also in public, bringing the Gospel's message of hope and peace to all sectors of society". In this context, Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for the progress made by the authorities in Cuba and highlighted the need to continue this process until achieving complete religious freedom.

Speaking of his departure, the Holy Father mentioned the thousands of Cuban faithful who, despite the rain, had come out to greet him on his way to the airport. In his farewell address he explained that the moment had come for the various members of Cuban society "to make a sincere effort at collaboration and patient dialogue, for the good of the country". In this light, his own presence on the island was intended "to encourage people to open their hearts to Christ, Who is the source of hope and a power for good".

Benedict XVI affirmed that his pastoral trip to Mexico and Cuba had borne positive pastoral results, and he expressed the hope that both countries would harvest abundant fruits, to build a future of peace and brotherhood.

In conclusion the Holy Father mentioned the Easter Triduum, the culmination of the liturgical year which begins tomorrow with the Mass of the Last Supper. "Each of us", he told the faithful, "was loved by Jesus 'unto the end'; that is, unto the giving of Himself on the cross, when He cried: 'It is finished'. Let us allows ourselves to be touched by this love, let us allow ourselves to be transformed, so that the resurrection can truly be achieved in each one of us".

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