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A Message of Hope

There’s great anticipation about the pope’s US visit, but his stop in Cuba is also worth watching, says BC theologian

09/17/15
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“As a Cuban-American, it’s particularly heartening for me to see the pope calling attention to the faith of the people that continues to endure and survive even in the midst of a great deal of suffering and strife.” –Roberto Goizueta (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Sean Hennessey | Chronicle Staff

Published: Sept. 17, 2015

As the United States makes its final preparations for hosting Pope Francis next week, the popular pontiff will be visiting Cuba this weekend – and there to see him will be Cuban-born Boston College theologian Roberto Goizueta, who expects a “profoundly moving experience” at seeing Pope Francis in his home country.

“I suspect that a lot more will be going through my heart than through my mind,” says Goizueta, the Margaret O’Brien Flatley Professor of Catholic Theology. “This trip will be a moment of unimaginable grace.  Pope Francis will be bringing Christ’s message of hope to a people who have suffered so much for so long.”

This will be Goizueta’s third trip to his homeland in the past 10 years – all for religious or humanitarian reasons – but his first time in the presence of a pope. He says the visit of Pope Francis will send a strong signal to a people on the margins and praying for better days ahead.

“As this pope has so often reminded us, the very word ‘pontiff’ means ‘bridge builder,’” says Goizueta, past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States and the Catholic Theological Society of America, the world’s largest professional association of Catholic theologians.  “Building bridges is ultimately about giving people hope – hope that isolation and estrangement will not have the last word.  That’s the message of the gospel and that, I think, is the message that Pope Francis will be bringing to the people of Cuba. His presence represents to the Cuban people a commitment to their struggles and to their faith.

“As a Cuban-American, it’s particularly heartening for me to see the pope calling attention to the faith of the people that continues to endure and survive even in the midst of a great deal of suffering and strife. Pope Francis has a particular affection and concern for those sectors and elements of the Church that have tended to be forgotten and been marginalized, whose voices have not been heard. Certainly the people of Cuba represent that for him. That’s very important.”

The pope arrives on the island Saturday for a three-day stay, during which he’ll say Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square, much like predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI did during their visits. Goizueta, who will be in Revolution Square to see the Mass, says it’s not so much the presence of a pope that has Cuba’s people excited, but this particular pope.

“Pope Francis is one who has energized people’s hearts, their faith, their hope and who has befriended the global Catholic community in a very personal and touching way, especially those people who have experienced marginalization or who have felt forgotten by the larger global community,” says Goizueta, named by National Catholic Reporter as one of the 10 most influential Hispanic-American educators, pastors, and theologians. 

“The pope has made the encounter with those who have been forgotten in the world a centerpiece of his papacy, his theology, and his vision of the Church. His presence there represents a real sign of hope for the people – a people who in many ways have lost hope or are threatened by the loss of hope.”