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A statue of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba. / CNA.

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Jul 20, 2021 / 20:01 pm (CNA).

During Mass on Sunday the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba prayed to Our Lady of Charity for the release of young people still under arrest for participating in recent protests of Cuba’s communist government.

While saying Mass July 18 at the Basílica Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre in Santiago de Cuba, Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez asked the faithful to pray for the country to “the Mother of Charity, the Mother and Patroness of Cuba, the Mother of all Cubans.”

Protests took place across Cuba July 11-12. Protesters cited concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some protesters were beaten, and at least 100 were arrested. At least one seminarian and one priest were among those arrested.

In response to the protests, the Cuban government announced July 14 it will temporarily allow those entering the country to bring food, hygienic supplies, and medicine without paying import taxes.

During the demonstrations the demand of “tens of thousands of people, mainly young people … that everyone has the right to express themselves, the demand that we want a better life for everyone, to have hope, could be heard,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop García pointed out that the Church has asked that “each person be respected in their dignity and rights”, because “all men are equal”, and recalled that in their last message the Cuban bishops asked “that we be brothers, that there be no violence, that there be changes because they are necessary, and that everyone be respected.”

“We come to pray to you, Mother, so that we know how to respect each other, so that no one feels they can lord it over others, so that no one feels they have more rights than others, or rights over others,” he added.

The archbishop prayed for all the young people who were in the protests, their families, and also for the guards.

“Mother, that every Cuban, especially every young person, because they are the Cuba of the future, so that young person may have the hope of building his own future, and the future of others; to start a family, not to have to leave the country for not having the means to build a better future. Yes Mother, we pray to you for the young people,” Archbishop García said.

The archbishop also prayed for the young people “who are now in prison and for their families,” that “there may be mercy, that wounds may be healed,” that they may soon be released, so their families may have peace.”

“We also pray to you, Mother, that no one may think of calling for violence, that no one may think of proclaiming that differences are irreconcilable. The greater the authority, the greater the responsibility, parents with children, rulers with subjects, never crying out for violence, never, never,” he stressed.

In his prayer, Archbishop García pointed out the need for “young people to feel at peace and calm, to dedicate their lives to what they like; to studies, to work, to what pleases each one.”

“We pray to you for changes, the necessary changes, the changes that many of us are waiting for, the changes that give hope,” he said. “Changes are needed, because the people are suffering; and they are now suffering more from COVID, and suffering more now because we see many things paralyzed, and suffering more now because perhaps they don’t hear viable answers from those who are the ones who have the responsibility to give them,” he said.

The archbishop said that as Saint John Paul II called for, it is necessary to give hope and signs of change, “that Cuba would open up to the world and the world would open up to Cuba, that no one would want to crush us, because it makes life harder for us.”

“But before all else, Mother, may we Cubans know how to respect one another, because if we respect each other, the world will respect us,” he added.

The archbishop also prayed for parents who suffer “when they see their children without hope, parents suffering in the midst of the COVID illness, parents wanting the best for their children” and urged that there be no more ideologies because human beings are made “in the image of God and therefore deserve complete respect.”

“Parents would like to give their children an education according to their criteria and beliefs, they would like that; they do not want anyone else to educate their children, but in the way that they believe it should be, it is a right that they have,” he stressed.

“Give us encouragement, give us courage, also give us mercy, give us a fraternal spirit, that we may recognize the other person as a brother and not as the enemy. One Homeland, a house divided destroys itself,” he added.

Finally, the archbishop asked Our Lady to assure Cubans that Christ “always accompanies us, and that you want the best for everyone.”

Communist rule in Cuba was established soon after the conclusion of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which ousted the authoritarian ruler Fulgencio Batista.

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