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A Cuban Pope?
Monday, April 04, 2005 By: Juan Paxety
Cuba mourns John Paul II, but may have a Pope of its own
Here's a surprise. Cuba is officially mourning the passing of Pope John Paul II. The BBC reports
Cuba has begun three days of national mourning to mark the death of Pope John Paul II.
Flags in the communist state, which until 1992 was officially atheist, are being flown at half-mast.
(I would have expected the BBC to know the correct term is half-staff, not half-mast - a mast is only on a ship or aboard a naval base.)
Anyway, baseball playoffs have been postponed, and fidel sent written condolences to The Vatican. Cardinal Jaime Ortega is the most senior Roman Catholic clergyman in Cuba. He says he was taken aback. There are still disagreements between fidel and the Church, of course. The Church is not allowed to have schools, nor is it allowed to be a rival institution to the government.
Could fidel fear a pope from Latin America? A pope who would do to him what Pope John Paul II did to communisim in Europe? Could be -read this post from the Financial Times. It points out that Latin America has more Roman Catholics than any other region in the world and is the strength of the Church.
Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, Claudio Hummes, of Brazil, Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina, Cuba's Jaime Ortega and Dario Castrillion Hoyos, from Colombia have frequently featured among the favourites. Vatican watchers too concede that what they call a "Latin American moment" is a possibility.
Notice a familiar name? Yes, Jaime Ortega from Cuba.
The 68-year-old Mr Ortega is another more conventional figure, although his opposition to Fidel Castro in his native Cuba resembles Pope John Paul II's anti-communism.
When judged against candidates from other parts of the world, especially from other developing countries, the Latin Americans boast two main advantages. First, they come from a region where the church has a huge number of followers and its moral teaching has sunk deep roots. As many as 450m of the world's estimated 1.1bn Catholics are from the region. The 22-strong group of Latin American cardinals (out of a total of 118) is the biggest single regional grouping outside Europe, although they are not expected to act in a collective fashion. Secularism is weaker in the region, society less liberal and less out of tune with the Vatican's moral teaching. Abortion is illegal other than in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and homosexuality is still taboo in much of the region. In Chile divorce was only recently legalised.
Secondly, Latin America offers lessons for the Vatican that could be especially important as the church faces the advance of Islam. After battling with revolutionary priests who joined guerrilla movements and leftwing clerics who served as ministers in the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, Latin American church leaders have begun to combat the growth of Protestantism in the region. With barely 2m adherents in 1960, Protestant churches have more than 50m members today, with particular strength in in Brazil and Central America.
Fly those flags at half-staff, fidel. Your time may be coming soon. We can only pray.