Pope Francis appealed for peace in Cuba and South Africa on July 18, 2021, and said he was near to the people of three European nations stuck by terrible flooding in the past few days.
His remarks came after praying the noonday Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, his first such event since returning to the Vatican July 14 after his July 4 colon surgery.
More than 200 people have been killed in recent days in South Africa, where unrest, fueled by poverty and inequality erupted, triggered by the anger of some, over the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma. The unrest swiftly degenerated into looting that has destroyed hundreds of businesses. The police have arrested more than 2,500 people suspected to be involved in inciting violence.
“Unfortunately, this last week, news has arrived of episodes of violence that have aggravated the situation of so many of our brothers and sisters in South Africa, already affected by economic and health difficulties due to the pandemic,” Pope Francis said. “United to the Bishops of the country, I address a heartfelt appeal to all the leaders involved that they might work toward building peace and collaborate with the authorities to provide assistance to those in need. May the desire that has guided the South African people, the rebirth of harmony among all its children, not be forgotten.
“I am also near to the dear Cuban people in these difficult moments, in particular to those families suffering the most. I pray that the Lord might help the nation construct a society that is more and more just and fraternal through peace, dialogue and solidarity. I urge all Cubans to entrust themselves to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary of Charity of Cobre. She will accompany them on this journey.”
Last week, Cuba erupted in some of the worst unrest seen in the country in decades, with protesters in dozens of locations calling for “freedom”.
On Saturday, pro-government forces, including both President Miguel Díaz-Canel and his 90-year-old predecessor, Raúl Castro, took to the streets in Havana with rallies of supporters to uphold government, Vatican News reported. The President accused the US trade embargo on the island nation for poverty and social injustice and international media of spreading what he called “malicious interpretation” of the latest events.
Meanwhile, in Europe, more than 170 are confirmed dead and many more are missing in the wake of catastrophic floods during the past week. Rescuers continue efforts to find survivors.
“I express my nearness to the populations of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, who were hit by the catastrophic floods,” Francis said. “May the Lord welcome the deceased and comfort their loved ones, may he sustain the efforts of everyone who are helping those who have suffered serious damage.”