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​The people of Cuba open their arms

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It was a celebration of faith with songs and prayers surrounded by the enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of people. The faithful gathered on Sunday morning for the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, a highly symbolic place in Cuba and the scene of major civic meetings. There, stands a huge effigy of another Argentine, Che Guevara. It is a space that has hosted previous papal Masses: in 1998 John Paul II and Benedict XVI in 2012. It was Francis' turn on Sunday to celebrate Mass and he did so, across from an enormous picture of the Merciful Christ covering the more than 10-story national library. On the other side of the library, a huge of image of Mother Teresa of Calcutta was hung with the motto of his visit: Misionero de la misericordia. This missionary of mercy came from Rome to address words of encouragement to the multitudes who had gathered to listen to him. The people of Cuba are a people who are on a journey, they sing and praise and love to celebrate but they also are wounded and, in spite of all of this, Cubans know how to open their arms.

After Mass, Francis went to the home of Fidel Castro — whom he had mentioned on his arrival at the airport — for a private meeting. Their very cordial 30-minute discussion was held in the presence of Castro's wife and other family members.

Gaetano Vallini on assignment in Cuba




St. Peter’s Square

Oct. 14, 2019