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Saturday, January 24, 1998 Published at 19:23 GMT



Despatches
image: [ BBC Correspondent Tom Gibb ]Tom Gibb
Cuba

Pope John Paul II has crowned Cuba's patron saint in the island's second largest city, Santiago de Cuba. During an outdoor mass attended by tens of thousands of people, the city's archbishop made a strong criticism of the Communist government. Tom Gibb was at the mass:

Pope John Paul was in Cuba's second city to crown the island's patron saint, the Virgin of Charity, long a symbol of national identity and freedom. He told the crowd that true freedom must include human rights and social justice.

He said the Church supports freedom of expression and association. Catholics have the right and duty to participate in public debate, he said.

Both freedom of speech and association are severely restricted in Cuba. The Pope's words followed a much stronger address by Santiago's archbishop, Pedro Meurice Estiu.

In a clear criticism of the one-party system, he said that Cubans have confused the Fatherland with a party. He said the nation is now struggling to overcome inequalities and lack of participation.

He talked of the confrontation with Marxist-Leninism which he said had left the Church weakened. Finally, he said that those living in exile and those on the island are one nation -- Cubans are, he said, suffering, living and waiting here as they suffer, live and wait there.

People in the front rows got up and shouted their applause.

Fidel Castro's brother, the Defence Minister, Raul Castro, looked on silently.





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