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    "The Pope in Cuba: a Call for Freedom"

    Resource Page for Teachers

    Written by Lynn and Bob Gillen

    April 1998

    St. Anthony Messenger


    Curriculum Connections -

    This classroom resource guide will support curriculum in several areas:

    • Religion–evangelizing; the role of the pope; religious freedom; comparative religion
    • Social Studies and Government–Cuba; U.S. and Cuban relations; Communism

Idea One - Exploring United States-Cuban Relations

A. Glossary of Basic Terms

Your students may find it helpful first to create a glossary of terms relating to this month’s article, and identify names of individuals related to Cuba’s history. Definitions can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited below.

Terms to define will include:


religious freedom

the Cold War




Caritas Cuba



trade embargo

Key names include:

Fidel Castro

Pope John Paul II

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Fulgencio Batista

John F. Kennedy

José Martí

the Virgin of Charity

Antonio Maceo


B. The History of American and Cuban Relations

For a thorough guide to United States policy toward Cuba, see This site includes historical perspectives, a timeline of U.S.-Cuban relations, classroom teaching guides, discussion questions, sources and hot links to other related sites.

American-Cuban relations have long been strained. Timelines will allow your students to trace the events which caused tension between the two countries. The current trade embargo, for example, originated with President Eisenhower’s term of office, and has been supported by every president since then. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, according to some sources, was the only time the United States came face-to-face with the real possibility of a nuclear war. This crisis occurred while the country was also in the throes of the Civil Rights Movement. The site offers some historical background for Goldie Hawn’s film Hope, set in the South in the midst of these two major events of 1962.

Further information on the Cuban Missile Crisis can be found at

C. Present Conditions in Cuba

The continuing trade embargo by the United States against Cuba, and the fall of Communist Russia, have debilitated an already weakening Cuban economy. Your students can research living conditions in Cuba and compare their findings with their own lives. What do they have that Cuban youth do not have? Do Cuban teens have any advantages over American youth, or youth from other countries? Start with these sources:

  • article in The Miami Herald describes Cuban socialism and its effect on traditional family life. Teenagers are separated from their families for their high school years. Abortion and promiscuity are commonplace among teens. Values–family, social, even Communist–are not strong among Cuba’s youth, according to these newspaper interview sources.
  • is a personal, firsthand description of life in Cuba by a Quincy University professor who visited Cuba recently. He discusses a number of aspects of Cuban daily life.

For views on opposition to the trade embargo of Cuba, start with The American and Cuban bishops have condemned the embargo, as has the Vatican. This special report on the pope in Cuba will give you access to a St. Anthony Messenger editorial from January 1998, "Let’s Lift the Cuban Trade Embargo." This magazine’s online archives will also provide access to the May 1996 article, "The Church in Cuba: Is a New Day Dawning?"

Idea Two - Appreciating Pope John Paul II’s Evangelizing Mission

A. Pope John Paul II’s Many Travels

The site provides a brief biography of Pope John Paul II, lists of the countries he has visited, related statistics and some of his own writings. Pope John Paul was Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1994 (Time, 12/26/94), and the cover article can be found on this site. Your students will also find the pope’s Cuban itinerary here.

Compare the pope’s effect on the solidarity movement in Poland with his visit to Cuba.

More general information on Pope John Paul II is found at the Vatican’s own site:

B. Protests Against Pope John Paul’s Trip to Cuba

Miami, Florida, contains the largest Cuban population outside of Cuba itself. The city saw strong protest from some Cuban exiles to the pope’s visit to Cuba, because they viewed it as support for what they see as an oppressive Communist regime. See also for reasons for the opposition.

C. Examining the Pope’s Speeches

Pope John Paul II is clearly a man with a message for what is happening in our lifetime. He always has a goal in mind when he visits a country. Your students may profit by comparing Pope John Paul II’s messages and speeches delivered in Cuba to those delivered in his 1995 visit to the United States. He spoke in New Jersey and at the United Nations. How do his messages in each country differ? Is there a common message of evangelization in each visit? What are the differences in his audiences?

Your students can then go to the New Testament Gospels written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to read some of Jesus’ talks and sermons to the people he encountered during his missionary years. How did Jesus speak to the various groups? Were there different messages from audience to audience? Did his tone change? Can your students find anger in some of his talks? How about sympathy and understanding? Is there evangelization in all of his talks?

You may also find it helpful to refer to other St. Anthony Messenger articles and corresponding online resource pages. See Searching the magazine archives, your students can research and develop a comparison to the January 1998 article "Vietnam Today: A Time of Healing" to see how the United States and Vietnam are working to heal their wartime wounds. Can the steps taken there be applied to Cuba as well?


Lynn and Bob Gillen are the authors of this online teachers’ resource and have been writing together for 13 years. Their work includes a past article in St. Anthony Messenger, as well as articles for publications in the music and entertainment industry. In addition to writing this resource guide for the past year, the Gillens have also created a yet-to-be published teacher’s study guide for CBS’s weekly television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. As the guide is archived, however, some of the links may become ineffective.


Further Online Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives. - The New York Times - The Los Angeles Times - Time magazine - CNN - MSNBC - This site will take you to a number of online publications. - The Associated Press - The Chicago Tribune - People magazine The Washington Post - The Miami Herald - The Close Up Foundation

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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