Cardinal: Pope's Mission in Mexico, Cuba Was Accomplished With Love

Cardinal Marc Ouellet Recalls the Salient Moments of the Apostolic Visit

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By Sergio Mora

ROME, APRIL 19, 2012 (Zenit.org).- “I was witness of the fact that the mission of the Successor of Peter was carried out with much love, despite the risk it represented for a person of his age,” Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (PAL), commented at a meeting Tuesday in Rome.

In addition to the cardinal, other speakers were Guzman Carriquiry, secretary of PAL; Valentina Alazraky, Mexican journalist of Televisa; and the ambassadors to the Holy See of Mexico, Hector Ling Altamirano, and of Cuba, Eduardo Delgado Bermudez.

Cardinal Ouellet commented to ZENIT, “knowing the quality of the Pope’s writings [...] and, in particular, his homilies, it is appropriate to reread them, for example beginning with the central ones, so as to have meditations for several days.”

The meeting began with a video that reproduced various moments of the apostolic visit. “To see these images again touched my heart,” said the cardinal, who stressed that an apostolic trip is always a challenge, considering also the Pope’s age and the length of the visit.

In regard to the trip to Mexico, the cardinal said “the welcome was so warm that it made one forget the exhaustion of the trip,” given the almost 1 million people the Pope greeted during the 35-kilometer (21-mile) drive from the airport. “It was a message for the whole world, because it was seen that the Mexican people are believers and that they received the Holy Father with faith and in a way that was not at all superficial,” added Cardinal Ouellet.

The cardinal recalled how the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, did not hide the dramatic situation the country is going through, making it possible for the Pope not to have to list the misfortunes but to be able to explain directly the positive values of the faith and how Christ is the foundation of our hope.

He added that the great protagonists of the trip were the people with their faith, and he reminded that the Pope’s ministry is to confirm people in the faith. He then mentioned that television took this testimony to the whole world.

“In Bicentenary Square, I took part in one of the most beautiful Masses of my life, where an extraordinary interiority was perceived,” he continued.

“The magic moment, however, was the Pope’s homage to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which all the people awaited from the start of the trip,” particularly “when they saw him kneeling in prayer before the image.”

“They were intense moments in which the Pope, with his discreet, gentle style, without raising his voice, reached people’s heart with the word of God.”

Cardinal Ouellet highlighted the importance of the Vespers celebrated in Leon, in the presence of all the episcopates, where the document of Aparecida was mentioned as well as what is taking place in the continental mission.

“The Pope gave his answer, and I will say that it was an invitation to unity and to perseverance together, despite the difficulties that can be found in different places, as well as the care of communion with presbyters, the formation of seminarians and the place that the word of God must have in the New Evangelization,” he said.

Cardinal Ouellet mentioned the fireworks (which, however, he was unable to see directly) and the celebration in the shrine of the Cubilete, which brought to mind the Mexican martyrs who were killed while crying out: “Long live Christ the King and the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

However, he warned about the risk of a false triumphalism according to which the faith should triumph with the weapons of this world, when in reality “the victory of faith is the victory of the love of Christ that ends in the cross.”

About the trip to Cuba, the cardinal recalled the “significant” welcome “though more discreet, given that the Catholic culture is not as rooted as in Mexico.” He added that the Mass was very beautiful and the people sang very well. “Here the Pope spoke of the family through the mystery of the Incarnation and Mary’s role.”

According to the cardinal, the pilgrimage of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre made it possible for the Pope’s word to be well received, as was also seen in the Marian shrine.

He pointed out that contacts were made in the Island with political leaders, in which concrete issues were addressed, such as the request for holidays for Good Friday, which was subsequently approved by the government.

His Eminence also recalled the Pope’s conversation with the Castro brothers, Raul and later Fidel, and their questions, and Pope Benedict XVI’s answer; he said he fulfilled his role despite his age and promised to send some books to Fidel. 

The Canadian cardinal said that the liturgical reading were those of the day, though many times it seemed that they were chosen on purpose.

He added that the farewell was impressive and that people stood in the rain to greet the Pope, showing greater enthusiasm than they did on his arrival.

The prefect of PAL said that during the farewell ceremony, the Cuban President gave a brief, less “political” address. The Pope summarized his message and lamented the limitations of liberty imposed on the people, and reminded that the Holy See has always been opposed to the embargo.