"His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life in the explosion at the Al-Wuhailat market in Baghdad".
This was how the telegram sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis to the Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq, Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, began.
The telegram continued: "He sends condolences to the families and friends of those who have died, entrusting their souls to the mercy of Almighty God".
Finally, the telegram conveyed the message that "His Holiness renews his fervent prayers that no act of violence will diminish the efforts of those who strive to promote reconciliation and peace in Iraq".
A bomb exploded on Tuesday, July 20, as shoppers were obtaining what they needed for the festival of Eid al-Adha in a market in the northern Sadr City area in the capital city of Iraq. Reports estimate that 30 people have died as a result, and dozens more were wounded. This was the deadliest such attack in Baghdad in the past six months.
As Pope prays for Cuba, Cubans who heard him voice anguish
Pope Francis Sunday, July 18, expressed closeness to Cuba in his traditional noontime Angelus address, and he voiced the hope that the country will become more just and fraternal. While those words may elicit only quiet reaction within Cuba itself, a band of Cuban expatriates who gathered in St. Peter’s Square didn’t disguise their anguish.
For safety reasons, as most of those in the square Sunday still have family in Cuba and have themselves already been threatened with not being allowed back into their country, they will be identified only by their first name.
“We are here for the freedom of Cuba, because we need a change,” Deborah said, explaining why the group was in the square before the Pope spoke. “There are many people missing, and they are not telling the truth.”
“The entire people is under house arrest,” Jonathan said. “People have been locked in their homes by police forces answering to a leader who is afraid of his own people. Cubans, led by the younger generations have woken up, and we kneed for not only the government, but also the world, to realize that this could be a turning point.”
“Those of us who are outside are currently being threatened by the government: we won’t be allowed to go back home, and our families might lose what little they have if we even tried to go back,” he said.
On July 11, the perennial pressure cooker that is Cuba exploded, with tens of thousands taking to the streets to protest the regime as they juggle hunger, poverty, fear, lack of freedom and COVID-19. The government responded in kind, violently repressing the protests and blocking the Internet.
“I am near to the dear Cuban people in these difficult moments, in particular to those families suffering the most,” Francis said Sunday, struggling to resume after those from the island nation broke in cheers when they heard Cuba. “I pray that the Lord might help the nation build a society that is more and more just and fraternal through peace, dialogue and solidarity.”
Deborah, one of those Cubans gathered to hear the Pope Sunday, claimed that Venezuelan soldiers are being deployed in the repression of the people, as the governments of Cuba and Nicolas Maduro have long been close, both ideologically and politically and financially.
Deborah pointed out that even though it’s often said that Cuba offers free education and healthcare to its 11 million inhabitants, this is a “blatant lie: Nothing has ever been free in Cuba. We’ve just been slaves, working for a state that never gave us what was rightfully ours.”
Asked if she feared Pope Francis speaking up could have negative repercussions for Cubans, she said that when all is said and done, “we can’t be afraid anymore.”
“All we wanted was for the Pope to have mercy and to intervene, because we were able to leave, but our siblings are not living in freedom. Those who are in prison are in inhumane conditions. It’s comforting to know that he didn’t disappoint. The question now is, who will answer his call for the world to help Cuba?”