Cardinal Bertone's Address to Cuban Bishops

Abundant Harvest and Lack of Laborers Is "Evident"

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HAVANA, Cuba, FEB. 21, 2008 ( Here is a translation of the address given today to the bishops of Cuba by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict XVI's secretary of state.

The cardinal is in Cuba to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit to the island nation.

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President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I thank Archbishop Juan García Rodríguez of Camaguey, the president of the Catholic bishops' conference of Cuba, for the cordial words of welcome he has addressed to be in the name of all of you, and to which I correspond with an expression of my sincere affection and profound esteem.

In the first place, I would like to make myself the bearer of the sentiments of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, who, before my departure for Cuba, asked me to transmit to you his affectionate greeting and his spiritual closeness. Clearly, the Pope knows very well the situation of the Church in Cuba, he carries it in his heart and has it very present in his prayers. Due to this, he awaits with ardent desire the next "ad limina" visit of the Cuban bishops, so as to be able to meet with you personally and tighten the bonds of communion that so closely unite the pastors of this noble nation with the Apostolic See.

I give thanks to God for the opportunity he gives me of being able to be here with all of you, in a special way, in this moment in which the Church in Cuba celebrates the 10th anniversary of the unforgettable visit of Pope John Paul II to this country. I am fully convinced that this anniversary event will also be a time of abundant grace and a privileged opportunity to boost the intense pastoral work which, on one hand, will permit the consolidation of the spiritual fruits harvested during these years, and on the other, produce a deep renewal of Christian life among the people of God who inhabit this beautiful land.

I encourage you, then, dear brother bishops, to intensify even more, if possible, the pastoral labor that you are doing with such dedication and determination. Allow me to remind you of something that you, as devoted pastors, already know well: the importance and primacy of place that, both in our personal lives and in our episcopal ministry, we should give to prayer and intimate contact with the Lord in the spiritual life. We know as well that bishops, in their ministry, have to attend to many obligations, schedule numerous activities and deal with multiple necessities. Nevertheless, as Pope Benedict XVI has said, "[B]ut the first place in the life of a successor of the Apostles must be kept for God. Especially in this way will we help our faithful" (address to the bishops ordained during the past year, Sept. 22, 2007). In this way, all of our pastoral action at the service of the faithful and the Church will be truly fruitful (cf. John Paul II, "Pastores Gregis," No. 12), because in the intimacy of prayer with Christ, the best projects and pastoral initiatives mature, and [it is there] that the heart fills itself with trust and strength in the face of difficulties, with the certainty that it is the Lord who acts in us and through us.

I also encourage you to continue strengthening the spirit of communion among all the bishops, as members of the Apostolic College, and with the Pope. All of you should feel that you are accompanied and sustained by your brothers in the episcopate, as a concrete manifestation of this collegial affection that unites us (ibid., No. 8), and by the union with the Successor of Peter, who was entrusted with confirming the faith of his brothers (cf. Luke 22:32). I can assure you of the interest and the support of the Holy Father for each one of you. Indeed, the testimony of fraternal charity and unity among the bishops will be, without a doubt, the best mirror in which the faithful can see reflected the mystery of unity that is the Church.

This spirit of communion must take in the entire Christian community, especially through the close and constant work of the priests and consecrated persons, who with their ministry and consecration, collaborate closely with the mission of the pastors. In regard to them there corresponds then, a binding task of concerning yourselves with their initial and ongoing formation, and attending them with solicitude in everything that refers to their spiritual life and their apostolic efforts, without neglecting the personal and environmental aspects that can influence in the joyful and abnegated carrying out of their work.

Moreover, in Cuba, it is tangibly evident the truth of Christ's words, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest" (Matthew 9:37-28): A prayer that should be accompanied by a serious vocation ministry, systematic and detailed, which makes the call to an unconditional surrender to the Lord and his kingdom of love reach to the heart of young Cubans, which accompanies them with patience, thoughtfulness and solicitude in all the stages of vocational discernment, and which shows families and Christian communities the beauty of a life totally dedicated to Christ and the Church.

I cherish the hope that the celebration of this anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit to this blessed land contributes to giving new strength to the relationship between the state and the Catholic Church in Cuba, so that in a spirit of respect and mutual understanding, the Church can fully carry out her mission, strictly pastoral and at the service of the faithful, with due freedom.

In this regard, I would like to take advantage of the conversation we will have later on to dialogue with you about this important aspect of the relationship between the Church and the state.

Finally, I address the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patron of Cuba, to entrust to her the fruits of this visit, as I also ask her, for all of you and your diocesan communities, that God bless you, that he fills you with love and hope, and that he rewards your devotion to the service of God and the Church.

Thank you very much.

[Translation by Kathleen Naab]