Pope Francis will come to Cuba this September, making him the third Pope to visit the Island in 17 years. The Pope will make his stop in Cuba before going to the United States, where it is foreseen that he will give a speech before the National Assembly in New York, meet with Barack Obama, and participate in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
This visit will be the third from top representatives of the Catholic Church in less than two decades and comes at a time when Cuba and the U.S. are in the process of reestablishing relations after 50 years. The Supreme Pontiff welcomed the decision the two countries took last December 17th and offered his support . The first visit of this type took place in 1998 with John Paul II, who went to four Cuban provinces: Havana, Santa Clara, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba.
Upon his arrival he was greeted by leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, and in the main public squares of these cities thousands of people attended his masses.
Pope John Paul II gave his first mass in Santa Clara, located in the center of the country, and about 150, 000 people attended. In Camagüey approximately 200, 000 people congregated and during the Holy Mass the Pope made a plea to all young people, believers and non-believers, to be virtuous, strong, and soulful. During the third day of his visit, he crowned the image of the ‘Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre‘ (Our Lady of Charity) patroness of Cuba, during the mass he gave at the square Plaza Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba.
At his fourth and last mass in the Caribbean nation which took place at the Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square) Fidel Castro was present.
Since Benedict’s visit Holy Friday was established as day of celebration in Cuba upon his request. Fidel Castro and Benedico XVI met at the head office of the Apostolic Nunciature shortly after the mass in Revolution Square. The national and international press indicated that they discussed ecological, cultural, scientific, and religious topics as well as other important issues affecting humanity.
In his words of farewell to the Pope, the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, pointed out that Cuba has taken on man’s complete dignity as its main goal . “We are conscious of the fact that this is not based on material goods alone, but also on spiritual values, such as generosity, solidarity, justice, altruism, mutual respect, honesty and fidelity to the truth.”
“We give utmost importance to the family, support all that dignifies her and we prioritize the parents’ role in their children’s education. We consider children to be our biggest hope and encourage young people’s free and creative participation in the achievements of our society”, he added.
Upon confirming Pope Francis’ visit, Bruno Rodríguez, Cuban chancellor, announced that he will make sure that the Pope is received here with the warmest hospitality, and emphasized that “his preaching to eradicate poverty in the world is admired by all”.