Some left Santiago de Cuba in the middle of the night. They walked the final kilometres from El Cobre to the Marian shrine surrounded by green hills. Others came from cities from around the country by other means in order to participate in the Mass on Tuesday, 22 September. It was an important day for the shrine: Pope Francis opened the Jubilee Year for the centenary of the proclamation of the Virgin of Charity as Patroness of Cuba. It was an important day also for the city of Santiago which is celebrating the 500th year of its foundation.
Departing from the nearby seminary of San Basilio, which had hosted him during this final stop in Cuba, Francis went to the shrine in the popemobile. Along the way he was warmly greeted by hundreds of people. After the Pope entered the shrine, 4,000 people watched the Mass outside on megascreens.
The liturgy — at which President Raúl Castro was present — was celebrated in the shrine; it was a votive Mass commemorating the anniversary (the veterans of the country's independence asked the Pope to proclaim the Virgin of El Cobre the patroness) and reestablishing Marian devotion on the island. The Pope was in fact given a copy of the letter. It was the first time a Pope celebrated Mass in the Basilica. Both John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2010 celebrated Mass in Santiago.
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