Pope Francis sent a message to the people of Cuba on Saturday, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s visit to the Caribbean island, in which he expressed gratitude “for this example of collaboration and mutual aid that unites them.”
In the letter, which recalls the historic apostolic trip of his predecessor between January 21 and 25, 1998, the first visit of a Supreme Pontiff to Cuba, Francis urged Cubans to “continue building with hope and determine the future of that nation.”
With “the spirit that characterizes you, open, welcoming and supportive, continue walking together with hope, knowing that always, and particularly amid adversity and suffering, Jesus and his Most Holy Mother accompany you,” the Bishop of Rome noted.
He recalled John Paul II’s statements to young Cubans at the time, when he asked them to “face with strength and temperance, with justice and prudence the great challenges of the present moment,” and pointed out that ” persons are defined mainly by their responsibility for the others and before history.”
Pope Francis stated that “as a sign of my closeness and communion with the dear Cuban people, who have great writers and artists, I would like to recall a few words by Father Felix Varela, who express the need to be rooted in the good and fruitfulness of this effort.”
He quoted Varela, a Cuban priest from the early 19th century, a prominent patriot who was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in April 2012, whose beatification process is underway in the Vatican. Varela said that “after the tree is established, very soon it will spread its branches, and virtue will rest under its shadow.”
“This tree full of vitality may well represent the man whose trust is rooted in the Lord,” the Supreme Pontiff added.
As the prophet Jeremiah said, “He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.,” Francis pointed out.
The Bishop of Rome hoped that the words of John Paul II during his apostolic trip to Cuba “resonate strongly in the present, and give a new impetus to continue building the future of that nation with hope and determination.”
Finally, he invited the Cuban people “to continue delving into their own roots with courage and responsibility, and continue bearing fruit united in faith, hope and charity” and wished that “Jesus bless the Cuban people, and Our Lady of Caridad del Cobre take care of them and accompany them.”