News

    Pope to Mark 400th Anniversary of Cuban Shrine

    A poster showing Pope Benedict XVI, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba's patron, is displayed on a window in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Sunday, March. 25, 2012.
    A poster showing Pope Benedict XVI, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba's patron, is displayed on a window in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Sunday, March. 25, 2012.

    Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Cuba Monday.  His first stop will be near the eastern city of Santiago to mark the 400th anniversary of a religious icon there.  The Virgin of Charity of El Cobre is venerated by many Cubans, regardless of their faith.  But it is central to the Roman Catholic Church's strategy for a country where religious restrictions recently have been easing.

    A constant stream of pilgrims dressed in bright yellow bring sunflowers and other offerings in the color associated with the Our Lady of Charity.  Four hundred years ago, the statue was found at sea.  And legend has it that her rescue calmed the stormy waters.

    The cathedral that houses the icon was built just outside Santiago in the 1920s.  A collection of world championship sports medals and baseball jerseys attests to the credit she gets for spurring her devotees on to great achievements.  Even Ernest Hemingway offered her his 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature.

    After lighting a few yellow candles, Jeanette Galdeano says the Virgin of Charity helps her have faith.  “I pray for peace, for my family, my children and all Cubans.  And I'm thinking about the hope that every day things will get better and we can move forward,” she says.

    Few Cubans attend church regularly.  Many more blend Catholic saint veneration with voodoo and other traditions that came to Cuba from Africa hundreds of years ago.

    The Rev. Dionisio García Ibáñez is the archbishop of Santiago.  He says the pope is aware that the 400-year-old national patron is a symbol for non-Catholics as well.  “The pope chose to come at this time to celebrate the jubilee year.  And there's not even the slightest doubt that he understands the spiritual reality of our people,” the archbishop says.

    The Vatican hopes that the pope's visit to the shrine will help revive faith in Cuba.  A glimpse of the future of Catholicism can be seen at the Sagrada Familia Church in Santiago.  Every Saturday, dozens of children receive catechism from a small group of parents and former students.

    University student Virgen Angelica Ladron de Guevarra is one of the teachers.  She says Catholic faith is growing in Cuba.  “And with this pope's visit, I think that both the government and nonbelievers are beginning to show a little more trust in Catholics and in the Church,” she says.

    The Roman Catholic Church is the only institution with authority that is not part of the communist system here.  Many Cubans are grateful for its efforts to advance economic liberalization.

    Rev. Luis del Castillo came to help the Cuban church after retiring from his bishop's duties in his native Uruguay.  He says secularism does not have deep roots in Cuba, as it does in some countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America that emerged from communist or authoritarian rule.

    “We're stepping on a very fertile ground, because the people here are very religious, more than in my own country in Uruguay,” Castillo says.  “And I think this good turf will help, that the seeds of the Gospel will give good fruit in the future.”

    As they head out into the almost blinding light of Santiago, the children pass a poster welcoming Pope Benedict.  He, too, apparently is hoping that these children will help revive Catholicism in a country that was once an atheist state.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.