What the Pope Didn’t Get to See in Havana

Vicente Morin Aguado

The bulletin board with the requests.
The bulletin board with the requests.

HAVANA TIMES — At around five in the afternoon on Sunday, September 20, Pope Francis stopped before Havana’s Reina Church, home to the Compañia de Jesus en La Habana Jesuit brotherhood.

The Pope saluted the gathered crowds, kissed a number of children who had been preselected for the occasion, blessed a similarly pre-approved woman on a wheelchair, embraced his Jesuit brothers and boarded his new Pope Mobile. No one drew his attention to a bulletin board where hundreds of petitions from Cuban citizens had been posted.

The week before his arrival in Cuba, the Jesuit priests had set up the boards, inviting church-goers to write a note “welcoming Pope Francis.” During the afternoon of his very brief visit to the the beautiful Gothic temple in Centro Habana there were always people in front of the message board. His Holiness left without reading those messages of love.

“Many thanks to you, Pope Francis, for your arduous and intelligent struggle on our behalf and for pushing for the lifting of the embargo.”

“Sacred Heart of Christ, I want to wish you and your entire family excellent health. I promise I will not forget your favor. Amen. Yanara. Pardoned.”

“Deliver me from these chains that fetter me and keep me from those I love, my mother and children.”

“I beg you to help me with the serious problem I have with the police. I am to stand trial and I do not want to go to prison.”

“Here stands your daughter, asking for love and affection, to help me overcome my problem, the title to my house.”

“Sacred Heart of Christ, help me get approved at the interview so I can participate at the event.”

The bulletin board with the messages was located on the left side just beyond the entrance to the church.
The bulletin board with the messages was located on the left side just beyond the entrance to the church.

“Bless my children and home that my wishes may come true and that professional and financial doors open for me and my family.”

“Dear Pope, speak on behalf of the many other prisoners in Cuba. The pardons granted don’t benefit everyone. Speak on behalf of those who have been unjustly imprisoned.”

“I pray you will continue to transform the Church and bring it closer to the poor.”

The writer of these lines had no choice but to follow developments that day from behind a barricade. There were a number of privileged reporters, whom I don’t criticize, who wrote interesting things for the official Granma newspaper, such as:

“A Gathering of Hugs, Not Words” was the title of Sheyla Delgado di Silvestrelli’s article, which focuses on the brief moments spent by the Pope with his Jesuit brothers. The journalist adds: “No sooner had the head of the Vatican state come across three children on his way up the steps of the church than he waved them closer, with a totally spontaneous gesture.”

Nothing else. Sheyla also didn’t get to see the posted notes.

Christ’s Vicar is to return to Rome. The notes will gradually fade. At least some photos of the encounter remain, next to the natural rebelliousness of he who writes.

Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]