But the life of a country, the existence of several generations of its children cannot be cast or built in periods of thousands of years, at the rhythm of an eternally oscillating censor.
John Paul II said, "Man is the primary route that the Church must travel," and the defense of human rights is the cornerstone of that premise. In Cuba, and faced with evidence that civil liberties are prohibited and demonized in other spaces, temples and seminaries need to assume a less cautious role.
The negotiations between the Cuban government and Cardinal Jaime Ortega over the release of political prisoners from the Black Spring crackdown in 2003 were expected to increase the Church's prestige on the island, but they did not. Instead, they raised questions and criticisms, even among the families of those who were released. In part, this was because the Ladies in White, who had spent seven years exerting pressure in the streets to bring their husbands home, did not have a voice at the negotiating table. The Cuban government chose a less uncomfortable interlocutor to deliver the hostages, brushing aside the role of those who had managed to bring it to that point by the sheer weight of their denunciations.
The Pope will arrive in a country where the ecclesiastical hierarchy has expanded its facilities, opened a new seminary, and created a chair for the discussion -- with very select guests -- of social issues. He'll greet a nation where no one is fired from his or her job or expelled from school for reciting the Lord's Prayer, and where official television broadcasts Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and many other homilies.
But he will also find a cardinal who is past the age of retirement, a president who is 80, and a population with a shortage of young people because of emigration and a low birth rate. He will come at a time when the economy is becoming more flexible and the political discourse more radical, a time of commercial expectations and ideological disappointments.
His visit, undoubtedly, will not be preceded by the whirlwind of hope, curiosity, and humor that John Paul II inspired in us. But who knows. Perhaps not even that little Pepito of our jokes can anticipate the surprises Joseph Ratzinger will bring us. As for me, I dream that in the atheist and exclusionary Plaza of the Revolution, he will propose that "Cuba open itself to Cuba."