Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

Pope Benedict XVI ends visit with call for freedoms in Cuba

HAVANA — Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday concluded his first trip to the Spanish-speaking Americas, launched with a condemnation of Marxism and drug war violence and ending with a forceful plea for "genuine freedom" as he preached from the symbolic heart of Cuba's leftist revolution.

Standing under larger-than-life portraits of revolutionary heroes such as Che Guevara, the pope admonished Cuban authorities for not doing enough to allow the public exercise of religious faith. Later, he met with former President Fidel Castro, and the two octogenarians joked about the hardships of being old men.

Dressed in a gilded miter and robes of purple in keeping with the Lenten season, Benedict rode the popemobile into the Plaza of the Revolution and presided over an open-air Mass witnessed by an estimated 300,000 Cubans and other Latin Americans. The event was broadcast on state television and radio.

"It must be said with joy that in Cuba steps have been taken to enable the church to carry out her essential mission of expressing her faith openly and publicly," the pope said in the homily, which he read in Spanish.

"Nonetheless, this must continue forward, and I wish to encourage the country's government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole."

He specifically asked that Catholic teaching be allowed in schools. Currently, the church is allowed to instruct only adults.

"The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer," the pope said.

"Cuba and the world need change," he added, "but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity."

On the plaza, a giant altar built for the occasion was surrounded by fluttering Cuban and yellow-and-white Vatican flags.

The only outwardly religious adornment was a billboard-sized banner with an image of Our Lady of Charity, patron saint of Cuba, hanging on the side of the National Library.

Some worshipers had traveled by bus all night across the island nation, arriving at dawn for the 9 a.m. Mass, a sweltering, sunbaked affair despite the morning hour. Some people took shelter under umbrellas. A number succumbed to the heat, carried off on Red Cross stretchers.

Many praised the pope's call for an expanded role for the Roman Catholic Church, noting that Cuba had witnessed baby steps toward more religious freedom in recent years as relations with the church have warmed.

"The church should be given more freedom — freedom not to paint things in a way they're not, but to paint things as they are," said a 17-year-old student named Jose Miguel, who declined to give his last name.

"The church could help the state a lot."

The teenager said Cubans needed the right to think and express themselves, including considering alternatives to the island's communist rulers. "There's desire, but a lot of fear," he said.

William Ramirez, 53, who works for a company that builds theatrical stages, said Cuba had achieved a "middle stage" of change since Pope John Paul II's groundbreaking 1998 visit, with plenty of room remaining to improve religious freedom.

"The message arrived," Ramirez said, gesturing toward Benedict. "We have to keep working on his message."

Ana Isabel Hernandez, 46, a church worker who traveled 10 hours by bus from Villa Clara in central Cuba, applauded Benedict's call for more religious liberty.

"This is what everybody in Cuba was hoping for," she gushed afterward. "A bit more freedom, maybe."

Although the crowd mostly included Catholics, the Mass drew many nonbelievers eager to catch a glimpse of the pope, or just to take part in a big event.

"Look around. Most people here aren't believers," said Maria Gomez, a 48-year-old schoolteacher and nonbeliever. "People came for, I don't know, curiosity. To join the excitement."

Comments
U.S. biathletes, who shoot guns to compete, speak out on gun control for America

U.S. biathletes, who shoot guns to compete, speak out on gun control for America

DAEGWALLYEONG, South Korea — For his profession, Lowell Bailey wears a .22 caliber rifle strapped to his back. It has taken him across the world and to four Olympic Games, most recently to the biathlon mixed relay Tuesday night at Alpensia Biathlon C...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Investigators find insufficient evidence against former state fair executive director

Investigators find insufficient evidence against former state fair executive director

TAMPA — Charles Pesano may have used his position as executive director of the Florida State Fair to funnel business to his family’s company, get Tampa Bay Rays tickets and have a hot tub installed in his Valrico home, but there is no evidence he com...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Age is a valued number for motocross rider Chad Reed

Age is a valued number for motocross rider Chad Reed

Chad Reed is set to break one of the most impressive records in motorsports, but it’s not the mark he wants most.The Dade City resident and native Australian has started 227 main events in the Monster Energy Supercross 450 cc series, tying former rid...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Middleton High student arrested after making threats about shooting, officials say

Middleton High student arrested after making threats about shooting, officials say

TAMPA — A 15-year-old male Middleton High School student has been arrested after threatening to carry out a shooting at the school, according to the police and the school district.The student, who had been suspended, returned to the school yesterday ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Special counsel files new charge in Russia probe

Special counsel files new charge in Russia probe

WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election charged an attorney Tuesday with lying to federal investigators about his interactions with a former Trump campaign official. A charging document filed in federa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: Mayors in Florida face fines of $5,000 if they enact stricter rules on gun control; Bucs release running back Doug Martin; and more

Top 5 at noon: Mayors in Florida face fines of $5,000 if they enact stricter rules on gun control; Bucs release running back Doug Martin; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.MAYORS IN FLORIDA FACE FINES OF $5,000 IF THEY ENACT STRICTER RULES ON GUN CONTROLSouth Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard may be one of the most liberal mayors in Florida, so he would be a natural ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Schools, Tampa police warn against ‘misleading’ school security reports

Schools, Tampa police warn against ‘misleading’ school security reports

TAMPA — During a news conference Tuesday morning, Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan warned against misleading investigators with reports about school security."Spread the word," the school said in a t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Video released of suspect in sexual assault of Pasco woman, 71

Video released of suspect in sexual assault of Pasco woman, 71

NEW PORT RICHEY— Pasco County deputies have released surveillance video of a suspect in the home invasion and rape of a 71-year-old woman on Monday morning.On Monday, deputies said a woman was checking on a home at 7437 Heather St. for the homeowner ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Yes, we have some bananas: Port Tampa Bay welcomes first shipment in 21 years

Yes, we have some bananas: Port Tampa Bay welcomes first shipment in 21 years

TAMPA — More than two decades after the last bunch arrived on shore, bananas are back at Tampa’s port. More than 3,900 pallets of Chiquita bananas from Ecuador arrived last week at the new Port Logistics Refrigerated Services warehouse.It was the fir...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Parkland students going to Tallahassee to push for gun law changes

Parkland students going to Tallahassee to push for gun law changes

PARKLAND — A hundred Stoneman Douglas High School students are busing 400 miles to Florida’s capital Tuesday to urge lawmakers to act to prevent a repeat of the massacre that killed 17 students and faculty last week. The students plan to hold a rally...
Updated: 2 hours ago