Many thousands of Cubans turned out to hear the Pope say Mass in Havana, Cuba's capital city, with President Raul Castro sitting in the front row. Many worshippers had waited hours to see the Pontiff.
The Mass, held in Revolution Plaza on March 28, was the grand finale to a three day tour of Cuba. The Pope started his visit in Santiago de Cuba before making his way to the capital. He met with President Raul Castro with whom he discussed issues such as allowing the Church to have a bigger role in Cuba and for Good Friday to be made a public holiday. Pope Benedict XVI also spent a short time speaking with Fidel Castro, the revolutionary leader who took Cuba down the road to communism, according to the BBC.
The Pope kept his sermon during the Mass away from political matters with remarks such as "Cuba and the world need change...which can only come if each one is prepared to ask for the truth and if they decide to take the path of love, sowing reconciliation and brotherhood" His message was based on the biblical story from the Old Testament about three youths who are persecuted by the Babylonians and prefer to die rather than renounce their faith. The youths are saved by God. In his homily the Pope said
"They find the strength... of God with the conviction that the Lord of the cosmos and history would not abandon them to death and nothingness. The savior is the only one who can show the truth and give genuine freedom."
Dissidents were kept well away from the Pope during his visit , with many rounded up and arrested or banned from leaving their homes. However, some 100 people managed to process with the statue of Our Lady of Charity, Cuba's patron saint, from the cathedral in Havana to the venue of the Pope's Mass. The Daily Telegraph says that this was a celebration of the fact that all religious processions were banned until fairly recently.
The 84-year-old Pope will now head back to the Vatican following his visit to Mexico and Cuba. He does not, however, seem to have managed to capture the hearts and minds of Latin Americans in the same way as his predecessor John Paul II.