The Cuban bishops have announced that the theme for Pope Francis' Sept. 19-22 visit to their nation will be “Missionary of Mercy,” as a way of looking forward to the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This theme “is in continuity with Saint John Paul II who visited the island as a ‘Messenger of Truth and Hope,’ and with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who came as a ‘Pilgrim of Charity',” the bishops stated. “Now we await Pope Francis as a 'Missionary of Mercy'.” The bishops said the theme recalls the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, from Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016. “During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis will send 'Missionaries of Mercy' as envoys to different parts of the world, and he is now telling us that ‘the Mystery of Mercy is the source of joy, serenity and peace.’ Let us welcome his words with enthusiasm, and we hope that his visit will teach us how and will help us to be … missionaries of Mercy,” the bishops concluded. Pope Francis has been notable to the Church in Cuba particularly for his role in the country's diplomatic rapprochement with the United States. Moreover, the Holy Father has made a number of gestures of his closeness to the Cuban people; he sent a letter on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, the patroness of the country, and whose statue was recently established in the Vatican Gardens. In addition, in January 2014, Pope Francis conferred the title of Minor Basilica on the Cathedral of Camagüey, and in June he replied to a letter from 12 seminarians from Saint Basil the Great Seminary in Santiago de Cuba, encouraging them to become priests who carry out their pastoral work with “joy, constancy and humility.” On May 9, he received Cuban president Ra√∫l Castro at the Vatican. On May 8, 2013, he met briefly with the leader of the Women in White opposition movement, Berta Soler, and on May 14, 2014, he received in a private audience the family of the deceased Catholic leader Oswaldo Payá, who founded the Christian Liberation Movement.
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