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  • John Thavis

At final Mass in Cuba, pope calls for ‘revolution of tenderness’

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

On the final day of his visit to Cuba, Pope Francis continued to promote his vision of a church that gets out of the sacristy and into people’s lives.

Celebrating Mass today at Cuba’s popular Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Santiago, the pope said Mary offered a perfect example of faith in action, a response to God’s call to move out of one’s comfort zone.

“God’s presence in our lives never leaves us tranquil: it always pushes to do something. When God comes, he always calls us out of our house,” the pope said.

“We are asked to live the revolution of tenderness as Mary, our Mother of Charity, did. We are invited to ‘leave home’ and to open our eyes and hearts to others,” he said. “Our revolution comes about through tenderness, through the joy which always becomes closeness and compassion, and leads us to get involved in, and to serve, the life of others.”

Faith calls Christians to visit the sick, the imprisoned and the suffering, as well as to “laugh with those who laugh, and rejoice with our neighbors who rejoice,” the pope said. The church needs to go forth from its chapels and sacristies “to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation.”

This, of course, has been a strong theme of Francis’ pontificate from Day 1.

In Cuba, the pope seemed much more intent on rallying Christians to live their faith fully than critiquing the government on religious freedom issues. We’ll see if that changes in his final encounter before boarding a plane for Washington this afternoon.

UPDATE: Weakening of family ties leads to broken societies, pope tells Cubans

Pope Francis ended his trip to Cuba with a reflection on the state of the family, warning that the weakening of traditional family bonds leads to societies that are divided, broken or “rigidly uniform.”

The pope spoke at an encounter in Santiago with thousands of Cuban families, who packed the city’s cathedral. He moved slowly but smiled as he greeted the crowd on the fourth day of a 10-day trip that would take him to the United States later in the day.

The pope, who will preside over a World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and a second session of the Synod of Bishops on the family in October, said it is in the home where people learn to get along, to help each other and to forgive. The shared experiences and spaces of family life are essential for healthy societies, he said.

“In many cultures today, these spaces are shrinking, these experiences of family are disappearing, and everything is slowly breaking up, growing apart. We have fewer moments in common, to stay together, to stay at home as a family,” he said.

“As a result, we don’t know how to be patient, we don’t know how to ask permission or forgiveness, or even to say ‘thank you,’ because our homes are growing empty. Empty of relationships, empty of contacts, empty of encounters.”

The pope said this leads to a weakening of the networks that sustain society.

“The family saves us from two present-day phenomena: fragmentation (division) and uniformity. In both cases, people turn into isolated individuals, easy to manipulate and to rule. Societies which are divided, broken, separated or rigidly uniform are a result of the breakup of family bonds,” he said.

After the meeting, the pope gave an impromptu blessing to a cheering crowd gathered outside the cathedral, telling them: “Thank you. You make me feel like I’m at home.”

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