HAVANA TIMES — Argentinean tango legend Carlos Gardel had it wrong. “Twenty years is nothing” may work as the poetic lyrics of a tango, but for a country, twenty years may also be next to nothing, a few short minutes in the clock of history.
However, measured against the lives of a country’s individual men and women, twenty years is a long time – a good part of, or half of, or even an entire lifetime. In the span of twenty years, people grow old, get sick, die, and lose hope.
For those who have embraced some kind of faith, no matter what religion or creed they espouse, phrases such as “love bears all” or “hope does not disappoint” are not mere, ready-made platitudes.
The issuing of the pastoral letter titled “Love Bears All” and the recent missive written by Cuba’s Catholic Bishops Conference, titled “Hope Does Not Disappoint”, are separated by exactly twenty years.
Dated September 8, 2013, the day of the Caridad del Cobre Virgin (Cuba’s patron saint), this most recent pastoral letter opens with a greeting, transcribed below:
“Beloved brothers and sisters, as part of the celebrations for the Year of Faith, the bishops of Cuba reach out to you, to the priests, deacons, believers, laics and all the people of Cuba, so as to share with you this pastoral letter that seeks to make the faith that burns in our hearts, the faith that animates all individuals and peoples, shine all the brighter. This invitation to hope stems from our Christian faith, from goodwill and from the need and duty to seek out among Cubans a better future for all.”
The missive is divided into several sections (each with its own heading) where religious appeals and civic demands are woven into a single message. Under the heading “Changes inspire hope among our people”, we find remarks of this nature:
“Cuba has changed in recent years; its present does not resemble its past. Today’s Cubans also do not resemble the Cubans of twenty or forty years ago. This is entirely normal (…) Several of the demands made in the pastoral letter titled “Love Bears All”, written by Cuba’s bishops in 1993, have already been satisfied. Others are still pending.”
In the section titled “The hope of a better future includes the hope of a new political order”, we read: “Cuba is being called on to become a pluralistic society. Cuba is the sum of many different realities. In other words, Cuba is the nation of all Cubans, of people who are different and have different aspirations (though this has not always been understood). We must have the right to diversity in terms of thought, creativity and the search for truth. The need for dialogue springs from diversity.”
That these remarks should be followed by statements such as “a dialogue among Cubans traces a road to hope” or “Cuba in the great concert of nations: a reason for hope,” is far from accidental.
Generally speaking, this pastoral missive is nothing more than a message of faith and a means of spreading the “word of God”, as interpreted by the Catholic Church. It is a celebration of unity and an expression of hope in a better future for our nation.
It is very similar to its predecessor, save in a number of details, such as its comments regarding recent events of importance for the Church and its congregation, namely, the visit of John Paul II, under the epithet of “A Messenger of Truth and Hope”, in 1998, and of Emeritus Pope Benedict VXI, the “Pilgrim of Charity”, in the spring of 2011.
The letter also acknowledges the implementation of a number of measures or reforms that have brought positive change to the country’s economic, social and, to a certain degree, political spheres (something I don’t entirely agree with, as I see no real change anywhere).
For people like me, non-religious types that have something of a problem with this business of faith, the future cannot depend entirely on hope and patience. Are we to content ourselves with the five or six steps forward taken in these last fifty years? How long do we have to wait for three or four more of such steps?
I respect and support this pastoral letter and invite all Cubans to read it. My non-religious nature, however, is stronger than me. I am positive that some of the bishops who wrote the first epistle, “Love Bears All”, are no longer with us.
They did not live to see the changes. Twenty years had to pass and, now, telling us that “hope does not disappoint”, today’s bishops continue to make petitions and demands. Will we get to see a third, making the same demands? Gardel had it wrong. In Cuba, twenty years is far too long.
To be continued…