His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, made a historic visit to Cuba from 21 January 1998 through 25 January 1998. The visit was historic not only because it was the first visit of a successor to St. Peter to the nation of Cuba and its people, but also because of the spiritual state of the Church at the end of the Twentieth Century.

The Church in Cuba has suffered immensely since the current regime came to power in 1959. Not only were Church properties confiscated, but it religious personnel were expelled from the island and its faithful were prosecuted. Those who professed the Roman Catholic faith were frequently denied schooling and employment. The Church itself was prohibited from conducting public worship and ceremonies. In 1969, the government went as far as declaring Christmas not to be a public holiday.
It was after 39 years of repression and hostility that His Holiness came to Cuba as Messenger of Peace and Truth. In consideration of his visit, the government reestablished Christmas as a public holiday (even if it declared that it was only for that year [1997]). With his visit, Pope John Paul II brought hope not only to the Roman Catholic clergy, religious and faithful which remained on the island, but also to the many millions who came to see him in the various public masses and celebrations at which he presided.

Because of the significance of his visit to the Church and the people of Cuba, we publish his public statements made during the visit:

Table of Contents

THE HOLY FATHER ARRIVAL SPEECH (Wednesday, 21 January 1998)
HOMILY AT SANTA CLARA  (Thursday 22 January 1998)
HOMILY AT CAMAGÜEY  (Friday 23 January 1998)
HOMILY IN SANTIAGO DE CUBA  (Saturday 24 January 1998)
– FAREWELL ADDRESS IN HAVANA (Sunday, 25 January 1998)



The Church after the visit of John Paul II (1)

The modern Cuban Catholic Church is made up of the Cuban Catholic Bishops’ Conference (COCC), led by Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Cardinal Archbishop of Havana. It has eleven dioceses, 56 orders of nuns and 24 orders of priests. In January 1998, Pope John Paul II paid a historic visit to the island, invited by the Cuban government and Catholic Church. (2)

The visit of Pope John Paul II was seen as an important, positive event for bringing a message of hope and the need for respect of human rights. Unfortunately, these improvements did not continue once the Pope left the island. While some visas were issued for additional priests to enter Cuba around the time of the visit, the regime has again sharply restricted issuance of visas.

Moreover, despite explicit regime guarantees and repeated follow-up requests, the regime has refused to permit the Catholic Church to establish Internet connections or an intranet among dioceses on the Island.

In a pastoral letter entitled “There is No Country Without Virtue” (“No Hay Patria Sin Virtud”), the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops in February 2003 openly criticized the government’s strict control over the activities of the Catholic Church, especially state restrictions on religious education and Church access to mass media, as well as the increasingly amoral and irreligious character of Cuban society under Communist rule.