3:20 pm - Tuesday November 3, 2015

Pope Francis Looks Beyond Havana in Cuba Trip

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After holding Mass in Havana and meeting with Fidel Castro Sunday, Pope Francis will have another busy day today in Cuba as part of his 10-day visit to that country and the United States.

The pontiff will leave Havana this morning and travel to the town of Holguin, where he will conduct Mass. Then later in the day, Francis will travel by plane to Santiago to meet with the bishops at the Seminary San Basilo Magno. He will then attend the Shrine of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.

Francis, who arrived in Cuba Saturday, held Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square Sunday to an estimated crowd of 300,000 people, according to the Cuban government.God’s holy and faithful people in Cuba is a people with a taste for parties, for friendship, for beautiful things,” Francis said. “It is a people which marches with songs of praise. It is a people which has its wounds, like every other people, yet knows how to stand up with open arms, to keep walking in hope, because it has a vocation of grandeur.”

After Mass, the pope met with Cuban president Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel Castro. Raul Castro gave the pontiff a large crucifix made by a Cuban artist. The pope gave the president a painting of the patron saint of Cuba, La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.In his meeting with Fidel Castro, Francis gave the former Cuban leader several books, as well as a book and two CDs of homilies and a copy of his two encyclicals. In return, Castro gave Francis an interview book titled “Fidel and Religion,” written in 1985 by Freitas Betto. Fidel wrote a dedication in it: “For Pope Francis, on occasion of his visit to Cuba, with the admiration and respect of the Cuban people.”

The 40-minute meeting between the pontiff and Fidel Castro was described as “informal and familial” by the Vatican, The Associated Press reported.

But the pope did not meet with Cuban dissidents who were prevented from attending the cathedral where the greeting was supposed to take place, the AP said. The Vatican said no official meeting with the dissidents was planned but its embassy in Havana did contact leaders as a “sign of attention to these people,” according to a Vatican spokesman.

The pope later spoke at a vespers celebration at Havana Cathedral in which he warned against letting riches rule your life and called poverty “the wall and the mother of consecrated life.”

Meanwhile, before his upcoming U.S. visit, Francis said he looked forward to attending the World Meeting of Families Congress in Philadelphia in a video released by the organization. “I look forward to greeting the pilgrims and the people of Philadelphia when I come for the World Meeting of Families,” he said. “I will be there because you will be there! See you in Philadelphia!”

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