Pope John Paul II greets Cuban President Fidel Castro on January 21, 1998 after the leader of the Revolution gave his welcome speech at the José Martí International Airport, in Havana.

Photo: Studio Revolution

This stamp, obviously, is a tribute to Pope John Paul II (Today Saint John Paul II) on the 25th anniversary of his visit to Cuba, and to my dear and never forgotten Rosa Fornés.

When Pope John Paul II visited us in January 1998, the country was charged with euphoria rarely seen.

This I affirm is from my modest point of view.

In the plan of "activities" prepared for the Supreme Pontiff by the Vatican and the Government of Cuba, a meeting was contemplated in the Aula Magna of the University of Havana between His Holiness and a small group of artists and intellectuals, who mostly or to a lesser extent, were related to the Catholic Church.

They were also there, because the Cuban jumble is like that, representatives of other religious denominations, all gathered under the mantle of ecumenism.

In the third row, to the right of the path that separates one wing from the other in the great room, we sat in this order: Nisia Agüero (an eminent and admired cultural promoter) next to the aisle —she was therefore the one closest to the Prelate when he made the little walk to the Presidency—, at his side the great singer Omara Portuondo, next to her, the reciter Luis Carbonell, who was recovering at the time from a health problem and was very weak;

then, Rosa Fornés, our vedette par excellence, together with Rosa me, and after me the beloved writers, Cintio Vitier, Fina García Marruz and Miguel Barnet.

They asked us to be there, for security reasons, four hours before the match!

Since we all knew each other and some of us were friends, a pleasant atmosphere of cordiality was created.

I was talking long and hard with Fornés, always so nice, nice and spontaneous, whom I always considered as another mother.

The topics were running out and anxiety grew to the beat of the hours, minutes, seconds.

Suddenly we were surrounded by heavenly music that emerged from the second floor, it was the Salve Regina from La Misa a La Virgen de La Caridad del Cobre by Maestro José María Vitier in the voices of the Exaudi choir.

Immediately afterwards, members of the Pontifical College and Cuban cardinals, as well as members of the government, entered the compound.

Later they entered through the main door, our Commander in Chief and his Holiness, we all stood up to applause.

The Pope was on our side.

Then Rosa, motivated by a passionate, true religious instinct, and without measuring the distance that separated her from the Pontiff, decided to kiss his hand, she threw herself at Carbonell, extending her arm, he stumbled and pushed Omara, who in turn collided with Nisia who tried to contain the avalanche armed between the two lines.

Rosa balanced with one leg in my arms and her head extended with the Pope's hand on her lips.

I couldn't find a way to straighten such a domino, but I managed to hold Rosa by the waist, I grabbed the collar of Carbonell's jacket to get her up, Omara, who was very agile, straightened up like a feather and Nisia breathed indicating, with authority, let us calm down.

With everything composed, I told Rosa, who was tearful with emotion: "Mother, your mascara is running!"

Then she, looking at me seriously and astonished, sovereignly forgetting the instability caused by her Christian outrage, took a small mirror out of her bag, composed herself and told me sedated and stately, as if nothing had happened, as if that momentary madness did not keep us together. a contained laugh to those of us who enjoyed the scene "Well, now I'm ready to listen to Your Holiness. How do I look, Amaurito?" -Beautiful, mother, as always.

With insufficient audio and the fragile voice of the head of the Catholic Church, we understood almost nothing, but somehow the Pope managed to make our souls feel at peace.

I remember that afternoon with a special shudder.

Rosita Fornes.

Photo: Peti.