2A | SATURDAY, MARCH 17, 2012
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MiamiHerald.com | THE MIAMI HERALD
PAPAL VISIT TO CUBA
Spiritual visit for pope in Cuba • POPE, FROM 1A to blow in Cuba.’’ Although his message — “Do not be afraid’’ — was the same that he delivered during a landmark visit to Poland in 1979 that galvanized the opposition and helped set off a chain reaction that eventually led to the breakdown of communism in Europe, the result was not the same in Cuba. The Catholic Church gained more space in society after John Paul visited the island, but those hoping his words would ignite political change as they did in Poland were disappointed. “Political change is not the goal of a papal visit, even though indirectly it can have a political impact,’’ said Andy Gomez, professor and senior fellow at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, “and, of course, socially and religiously it can have a big impact.’’ Still, a group of 13 dissidents who occupied the minor basilica of the Church of Our Lady of Our Charity in Havana this week before Cardinal Jaime Ortega called police to have them removed have already politicized the pope’s visit. They wanted the pope to mediate a series of issues with the government, ranging from release of political prisoners to establishing a transitional government. Various dissident groups on the island also have asked to meet with the pope. So far the church has been noncommittal. Ninoska Perez, a director of the Cuban Liberty Council and a Miami radio commentator, said she expects more protests leading up to and during the pope’s visit. Frustrated that not much happened politically after John Paul’s visit, she said, they want the world to see
their problems. Church officials said the two trips by two very different popes share a message of hope for the Cuban people. “John Paul was responsible for an enormous amount of openness in the world — giving a sense of hope. It resulted in a deeper faith as well as an openness to change,’’ Casale said. He “was very happy to be with the Cuban people during his visit, and especially happy to give them hope for the future,’’ said Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was the pope’s private secretary for nearly 40 years and traveled with him to more than 100 countries, including Cuba. Dziwisz, who was at John Paul’s bedside when he died in 2005, said the pope always advocated for the poor and especially people who suffered and “didn’t have a voice.’’ His main message, he said, was the gospel. “Benedict XVI will continue the mission of John Paul II,’’ said Dziwisz during a visit to South Florida last month. Then, as now, the Catholic Church has said it hopes the pope’s visit will increase religious fervor and open up more space for the church, which was persecuted after the revolution. “This is good for the Cuban church and its business, but I’m fascinated how this is supposed to lead to the betterment of all Cuban people,’’ said Joe Cardona, a Miami filmmaker and political commentator. Since John Paul II’s visit, Caritas, the Catholic relief, development and social service organization, also has increased its scope on the island and a steady stream of food donations, medicine and health programs have helped ease economic pain in Cuba. Cuban leader Raúl Castro “has opened the spigot when
it comes to the church and he can’t close it,’’ Gomez said. Some in the exile community criticized John Paul’s trip because they said it gave legitimacy to the government of Fidel Castro — and there has been similar criticism of Benedict. But Dziwicz emphasized that John Paul never regarded his trips as being in support of governments, but opportunities “to see the people, to be with the people.’’ Raúl Castro will greet Benedict when he arrives at the airport in Santiago on March 26 after a visit to Mexico. The pope also has scheduled what the Vatican calls a “courtesy visit’’ with Castro and the Council of Ministers on the second day of his Cuban trip. But other than that, Benedict’s schedule is dominated by conversations with church officials and two Masses he will celebrate in Santiago and Havana. “It is a pastoral visit, but in the eyes of the government and the people, it also is the visit of a head of state,’’ said Santiago Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibáñez, president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a reflection published Tuesday. “However, we cannot miss that the primary meaning of the visit is pastoral.” But, as evidence this week, politics are often a backdrop to a papal visit. John Paul II, for example, had originally expected to make his first trip to Cuba in 1990. The image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint, was carried from parish to parish much as it has been for the past year in preparation for Benedict’s trip. And tens of thousands of people turned out for the religious processions as they have over the past year. But the processions were
abruptly halted in May 1990 after disagreement with the Cuban government over the date for the pontiff’s visit. Facing the unwinding of the Soviet bloc, pressing economic problems and an upcoming Communist Party Congress — where it wanted consensus, rather than any ideas that might be introduced during a papal trip — Cuba favored a later date. It would take nearly eight years before John Paul II actually set foot on Cuban soil. Another change since John Paul’s visit is there is a lot more contact between Cubans on the island and Cubans in the United States. Last year, President Barack Obama relaxed travel restrictions, allowing Cuban Americans to make an unlimited number of trips. When Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski participated in an outdoor Mass in Havana on Dec. 30 marking the end of the processions of the Our Lady of Charity statue, he said, “I had people coming up to me after mass saying I’m from St. Brendan [a Miami-Dade parish].” Still, there are some exiles and dissident groups on the island who are wary of Benedict’s visit. “I think some people feel sensitive about any type of formal contact with Cuba,’’ Casale said. “But the reaction to this trip doesn’t seem to be nearly as strong as the last trip. I think one of the reasons is that a lot of people have gone back and forth’’ between South Florida and Cuba in the intervening years.” “Family-to-family visits do break down such sensitivities,’’ he said. “There were results during the last papal visit and there will be results with this one,’’ said Gomez, who is planning to go on a pilgrimage with the Archdiocese of Miami.
Employee allowed to work from Colo. • EMPLOYEE, FROM 1A wife of a former chief circuit judge was allowed to work one hour a day as an administrator in state court — with full benefits — even though she had taken a fulltime job as an interpreter in federal court. The reason: Joelle Haspil needed to stay full-time in her county job 15 more months to receive her full pension. Miami-Dade’s current chief judge said that although any veteran employee would get the same consideration, the state court’s policies are under review.
Pub. date: Saturday, March 17
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Like Santisteban, investigators deemed no crime had occurred because the arrangement had been blessed by superiors. Personnel records show that Santisteban resigned in September after MiamiDade police got an anonymous tip and began their investigation. Santisteban, 63, is an expert in clinical and industrial organizational psychology and was first hired by the county in 1985. His job was to analyze and create tests used to evaluate employees from firefighters to social workers. He was considered a part-time employee with
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set hours and pay, as well as a contract employee who worked with other county departments and cities, according to personnel records. In 2008, Santisteban moved to the ski resort town of Telluride, Colo., 300-plus miles southwest of Denver, where he and his wife own a condo, according to records. Santisteban was allowed to work from home while flying in occasionally on his own dime, according to people familiar with the probe. In 2010, his last full year of work, Santisteban earned $119,254, according to county records.
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This year, Santisteban received an extra $10,705 after cashing out his accumulated leave time. But investigators concluded that no crime had occurred because the deal had been approved by his supervisor and he had could show some work had been done. His boss was Mary Lou Rizzo, the head of the Human Resources division which was recently consolidated into the Internal Services Department. Rizzo was a key player in the recent negotiations that shaved more than $239 million in costs from employee unions.