Freedom in Cuba not the party line

In Southern Baptist parlance, as far as Cuban government officials are concerned, Pope Benedict XVI went from preaching to meddling.

The pope was in his second day of visiting the socialist-run island on Tuesday when he mentioned something that Cubans have not enjoyed since the mid 20th century -- freedom.

"I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans," the pope said, according to Associated Press reports. "I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty."

A Cuban vice president, Marino Murillo, according to the news service, shot back quickly: "In Cuba, there will not be political reform."

It's no surprise that position was taken. Raul Castro, who has taken over the presidency from his ailing brother, Fidel, has as much as admitted that any opening of the Cuban political system will end the iron hand that the socialists have used to control the nation. Castro has described the problem as being that an alternative party would be dominated by Americans and Cubans who have moved to America, though in truth the main problem is that without the weapons of fear and unbridled power over citizens, it's unlikely the rigid regime could survive. Its reactionary policies would crumble in a Cuba in which citizens were given a taste of the freedom that those who don't live on the island enjoy.

The revolution has isolated Cuba for more than 50 years. Just imagine the overnight sensation that unrestricted access to newspapers, the Internet and other media would have on the nation.

It would make it difficult, for instance, for a protester to disappear from the face of the earth.

On Monday, just before the pope conducted Mass, a man yelled, "Down with the revolution! Down with the dictatorship!"

A first-aid worker, of all people, slapped the protester before Cuban government security agents carted him away, his name unknown and his whereabouts equally a mystery.

Whether the pope's visit will in any way inspire the island's inhabitants -- less than 10 percent are practicing Catholics -- to work for more freedom and a better life is anyone's guess. But it also might be good to remember that even something as a small, fragile and seemingly insignificant as a single mustard seed can, once firmly planted, take root and grow.