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Lord Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Brother Priests, Religious,
Dear Young People,
All Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the coronation of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre as Queen and Patroness of Cuba, accomplished by John Paul II during his apostolic visit to this nation, we have come to this celebrated Marian shrine to recite the holy rosary.
We do it in the context of the 4th centenary of the apparition of the Virgin in which we remember the love of the Mother of God, manifested for this land and her children, when three young people found her image in the waters of the sea. Today, aware of the presence of Mary in your history, you welcome her into your hearts, with the echo that still lives of the words of the pilgrim Pope, by which he invited you not to be afraid to open your heart to God.
With the recitation of the rosary we learn from Mary how to contemplate the beauty of her Son's face and we experience the depth of his love. It is a recalling, a remembering, a salutary contemplation, a meditation and a supplication. It is a retracing of Jesus' life. For this reason "Mary has been defined as the book […] on which the doctrine of her Son has been written" (Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Homily for Mass concelebrated with the apostolic nuncios of Latin America, Feb. 17, 2007).
The rosary, the best tradition of the art of prayer, is deeply rooted in life itself, in which it illuminates the mystery of the heart of man. In the recitation of the Rosary there is a profound contemplative attitude of the mysteries of the life of the Lord, a slow meditation, while one says the prayers to Mary according to the best tradition of the art of prayer; it is particularly beneficial in a world sometimes dominated by hustle and bustle and by the proliferation of voices that distract us.
In the background of the Hail Mary one places in the hands of the Mother of God and our Mother everything that makes up "lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind -- our personal concerns and those of our neighbor, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the rosary marks the rhythm of human life" (John Paul II, "Rosarium Virginis Mariae," No. 2).
With the joyful mysteries this afternoon we remembered the Incarnation and the hidden life of Christ. According to the words of the Angel, Mary became the temple of God in a unique way: She was the Mother of the Son of God. "You will conceive a son, you will give birth to him and call him Jesus. He will be great and called Son of the Most High."
Mary, with total consent and availability, replied with those words that opened the gate of salvation to us: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Thanks to her, a woman completely open to God's plans, the Savior's definitive coming into the world is accomplished, the desire of the ages. Because of this all generations from now on will call her blessed (cf. Luke 1:48). Christ too, coming into the world, says: "Behold, I come […] to do your will, O God" (Hebrews 10:5-7). The two "beholds," the Son's and the Mother's, intimately meet in the mystery of the salvation of the whole human race. And you too can participate in it, renewing your "here I am" today.
This is what your forebears did, by the practice of this Marian prayer they entrusted the cause of the Pilgrim Church in Cuba to God. As Our Lady of the Rosary was invoked in decisive moments of Christianity as propitiator of salvation, so also the Cuban people, in crucial moments of its history, entrusted itself to Our Lady of Charity.
Today young people from different dioceses have come to this sanctuary, above from the diocese that has welcomed us, Santiago de Cuba, and also from the Diocese of Holguín and the Diocese of Santísimo Salvador de Bayamo y Manzanillo.
Dear young people, thank you for your significant presence, which speaks to us of a young country with a promising future. Show contemporary society that, as Pope John Paul II said, "you can be modern and deeply faithful to Christ" (Prayer at the end of canonization ceremony in Madrid, May 4, 2003). You are the heirs to the memory of the Christian communities who, through trials and difficulties, knew how to hand on their authentic faith in the course of history. Now it is up to you to be the present and the future of the Church of Cuba. This should encourage you to grow more in faith every day and to dedicate yourself disinterestedly, even at the cost of sacrifices, to the cause of the Gospel, and to work on behalf of all, above all for those who are most in need, the poor, the marginalized, the excluded, the sick and your peers, who on many occasions, because of their youth, are the most vulnerable.
You are the voice of those who do not have a voice. Today you are faced with new challenges, new and numerous problems, and new hopes too, above all in what regards the dignity and fundamental rights of the person. Defend life from its conception to its natural end and always proclaim the truth. The truth about marriage and the family, of an irreplaceable value for all of society and also your people.
Cuban families, your families, must be a powerful example in trials, and of joy and confidence in the future. Never forget the mission the Lord has entrusted to you. Take the rosary into your hands with confidence, rediscovering the face of Christ, and bringing his love and his Gospel into your daily life, in the university, in your workplace, in your circle and to your friends. Make the values of dialogue and reciprocal respect, of solidarity, of freedom and peace present with your witness. Promote hope and be ready to leave everything to follow Christ.
Put your plans under Mary's protection. She will accompany you along the road of evangelization as Mother of all. The Cuban people have always experienced the benefits of her maternal protection. John Paul II noted this, saying that Cuban history shines with marvelous demonstrations of love for its Patroness.
Dear young people, beloved brothers, continue to turn to her with serenity of spirit, but at the same time with apostolic boldness, that she may continue to be shield and refuge, as you sing in the hymn. I entrust your lives to Mary, venerated with the title of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre. I place in her hands the difficulties and aspirations of all of the children of this beloved land. As in the past, may she guide and support your steps to heaven and encourage you "to live in such a way that in society those authentic moral values may reign which constitute the rich spiritual heritage received from your forebears" (John Paul II, Homily at Santiago de Cuba, Jan. 24, 1998, 3)!
May this prayer today be for all of you a reason for encouragement and hope, knowing that you can count on the special nearness of Pope Benedict XVI, from whom I offer you an affectionate apostolic blessing!
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]