Like his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI is no fan of Marxism.
Due for a trip to communist party-controlled Republic of Cuba, the Pope has not backed away from criticizing the nation's government. Pope Benedict is currently in Mexico for a three-day visit and will arrive in Cuba Monday. During his flight to Mexico Friday, the Pope told reporters, "Today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality."
The Guardian reports that Benedict told reporters accompanying him on the papal plane, "In this way we can no longer respond and build a society. New models must be found with patience and in a constructive way." The Associated Press notes that when asked about reports of harassment and detention of dissidents on the island, Benedict said the church wants "to help in the spirit of dialogue to avoid trauma and to help bring about a just and fraternal society."
Cuban authorities detained prominent dissident Bertha Soler and dozens of her Ladies in White colleagues in a crackdown last week before the Pope's visit:
About 30 other Ladies supporters did make it to the march, which began peacefully, but state security agents moved in when the Ladies tried to extend the protest into streets they don’t normally enter. All were escorted onto a bus belonging to state security. By Sunday evening, many had been released and some driven back to their homes, though Soler was apparently still being held.
The Ladies in White formed in 2003, shortly after authorities jailed 75 intellectuals, activists and social commentators in a notorious crackdown on dissent, sentencing them to long prison terms. All have since been freed, and many have gone into exile.
Cuba has cleared its jails of most political prisoners, but human rights groups say the government of President Raul Castro has stepped up short-term detentions and other forms of harassment against the island’s tiny opposition.
During a 2007 trip to Brazil, Benedict made even stronger remarks demeaning the ideology at the root of Cuba's government:
'The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit.'
AP reports Saturday that Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez avoided any clash with the Pope's statement, saying Cuba will listen with respect to Benedict during his visit next week even if he differs with island leaders.
"We consider the exchange of ideas to be useful. Our people have deep convictions developed over the course of our history," Rodriguez said at a news conference. "Cuba will listen with all respect to his holiness."
Rodriguez added that the Cuban system "is a democratic social project, genuinely chosen, which is constantly perfecting itself."
Benedict will arrive in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba Monday. The Associated Press reports that Cuban officials said 797 journalists from 295 media outlets in 33 nations were issued visas to cover the 84-year-old pope's visit, which is to include a meeting with Raul and possibly Fidel Castro.