Why this papal visit lacks the buzz of John Paul II in ’98

A view of the altar at the Revolution Square on March 22, 2012 in Santiago de Cuba, where Pope Benedict XVI will offer a Mass on Monday. VALENTIN SANZ / AFP/Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba is generating only some enthusiasm among Catholics, and even less among other Cubans, as well as complaints that the government’s media monopoly is not giving it enough publicity.

“The people know nothing,” said Eunices Madaula, a resident of the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where the pontiff will make the first stop of his Monday through Wednesday visit and celebrate Mass at a plaza.

The only chatter surrounding the visit is that the potholes on the route from the airport to the plaza have been fixed, she added, and a wild rumor that the government will allow Cubans to escape through the U.S. navy base in Guantánamo, 40 miles to the east.

“I tell people the pope’s visit has nothing to do with the base, but they understand nothing, nothing, nothing,” Madaula told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city.

Madaula and other Cubans also reported the government is mobilizing groups of loyalists to attend the Masses in Santiago and Havana — apparently to ensure either large turnouts or to be ready to snuff out any outbreaks of opposition activism.

Most Cubans say Benedict’s visit has clearly sparked far less interest than the historic visit by Pope John Paul II in 1998. The more charismatic John Paul, who helped bring down communism in his native Poland, spent five days on the island. [More]


Miami Herald