Cuba welcomes you with affection and respect, and is honoured by your presence. Here you will find a fraternal and educated people bent on attaining full justice, and sparing no sacrifices to accomplish it.
From Marti we learned to honour the full dignity of man and inherited the brotherly formula we continue to apply until this day: “…with all and for the good of all.”
Cintio Vitier, an outstanding intellectual and a Christian, wrote that “the true face of the homeland [...] is that of justice and freedom,” and that “our nation has no choice other than being independent or not being at all.”
The mightiest power known to History has unsuccessfully tried to deprive us of the right to freedom, peace and justice. With patriotism and ethical principles, the Cuban people have sustained a tenacious resistance, knowing that it is our legitimate right to pursue our own path, to defend our culture and to enhance it with the contribution of the most advanced ideas.
Cuba is undeservedly slandered; but we are confident that the truth, which we never relinquish, will make its way.
Fourteen years after the visit of Pope John Paul II, the economic, politic and media blockade against Cuba is still in force, and has tightened in the financial sector. As stated in a US Memorandum of April 6th, 1960, declassified several decades later, the purpose of the blockade is to cause hunger and desperation and to overthrow the government.
However, our nation has persevered on its course, changing everything that needs to be changed, in an effort to meet the highest aspirations of the Cuban people, which have freely engaged in transcendental decisions concerning our society, including those of economic and social nature that almost everywhere else in the world are under control of tight political and financial elites.
Several generations of our compatriots have joined in the struggle for lofty ideals and noble objectives. We have faced hardships but we have never failed to fulfil our duty of sharing what we have with those less fortunate.
Just as an example of how much could be done if solidarity prevailed, allow me to say that in the past ten years Cuba has helped train tens of thousands of medical doctors from other countries. At the same time, it has assisted 2.2 million low-income people to recover or improve their vision, and has contributed to teach 5.8 million people how to read and write. I can assure you that, to the extent of our modest capabilities, we shall continue providing our international cooperation.
We are commemorating the Fourth Centennial of the appearance and presence of the image of Our Lady of Charity from El Cobre, who carries the national coat of arms embroidered on her mantle.
The recent pilgrimage of the Virgin throughout the country brought our people together, both believers and non-believers, in a particularly significant event.
You are welcomed to Santiago de Cuba, which has been a protagonist of glorious exploits in the history of struggles waged by Cubans for their final independence, and also to the small town of El Cobre, a place where the Spanish Crown was prompted to grant revolted slaves in the mines their freedom, eighty years before the abolition of that infamous institution in Cuba.
We are pleased with the close relations existing between the Holy See and Cuba, which have developed continuously for seventy six years, based on mutual respect and concurrence on issues of crucial importance for mankind.
Good relations prevail between our government and the Catholic Roman Church in Cuba.
The Cuban Constitution provides and ensures full religious freedom to every citizen and, on the same basis, the government sustains good relations with every religion and religious institution in our country.
It’s been almost twenty years since Fidel took many by surprise with the statement that “an important biological species is in risk of extinction due to the accelerated and progressive elimination of its natural habitat: Man.”
The threats to peace keep mounting and the existence of huge nuclear arsenals poses another grave danger to human beings.
. Water and food, second only to hydrocarbons, will be the cause of future predatory wars. The resources invested in the production of deadly weapons would suffice to eliminate poverty. The mind-boggling development of science and technology is not being used to tackle the major problems affecting human beings; quite often they are used to create conditioned reflexes or to manipulate public opinion. Finances have become an oppressive power.
It is not solidarity that is expanding but rather a systemic crisis brought about by irrational consumerism in the wealthy societies. A negligible portion of the population accumulates enormous wealth while the number of those who are destitute and hungry, helpless and ill without access to medical care keeps growing.
In the industrial world, the protesters cannot no longer stand injustice, while distrust of social and ideological models that obliterate spiritual values and generate selfishness and exclusion, particularly among the youth, is increasing.
It is true that the global crisis also has a moral dimension, and that there is a gap between the governments and the people they pretend to serve. Actually, political corruption and the absence of real democracy are both current evils.
We find that our views coincide with regards to these and other issues.
In the face of so many challenges, Our America comes together in sovereignty and strives for a more fraternal integration that can lead to the realization of our forefathers’ bicentennial dreams.
His Holiness will be addressing people with deeply held convictions who will listen to him attentively and with great respect.
On behalf of our nation I offer you the warmest welcome.
Thank you very much.