Pope marks special anniversary by flying to Cuba’s east

The Vatican embassy in Havana did make calls to some leaders “as a sign of attention to these people“, the Vatican spokesman said, but in the end the dissidents were prevented from reaching the cathedral where the greeting was planned.


His USA schedule includes a private meeting with Obama, speaking to a joint meeting of Congress, and addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Pope Francis met with the brothers in Havana at the start of his Cuban trip.

Monday is an important anniversary for the pope: On Sept, 21, 1953, when Jorge Mario Bergoglio was just 17, he went to confession at his parish church in the Flores neighbourhood of Buenos Aires.

POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter): Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas.

Pope Francis ended his last full day in Cuba at the country’s holiest shrine, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, outside the island’s second-largest city Santiago. In his speech, he urged thousands of Cubans to serve one another and not ideology.

Miriam Leiva and Martha Beatriz Roque, two dissidents on the Communist-run island, each said they were stopped separately by state security agents before they could reach the cathedral. Yet Francis and his entourage could – and should – have insisted.

The morning Mass kicked off a busy series of events for Francis, including a formal meeting with President Raul Castro and a likely encounter with his 89-year-old brother, Fidel.

The government of President Raul Castro, who attended the Holguin Mass, had hoped the 78-year-old Francis would explicitly condemn the still-intact US economic embargo against Cuba before leaving on Tuesday for Washington.

Jesus Christ “invites us slowly to overcome our preconceptions and our reluctance to think that others, much less ourselves, can change”, the Pope said.

Holguin’s Plaza of the Revolution is packed with thousands of people waving flags as Francis travels in his popemobile through the crowd. Francis’ call for Cuba to “open itself” to the world echoed John Paul’s remarks, a sign of the Catholic Church’s longstanding efforts to carve out space in a country that has been officially atheist for decades.

“Personally I feel very satisfied with the recognition implied by the fact that they invited us to the pope’s activities”, she said.

Some American conservatives, however, have criticized the restoration of ties with the communist country, saying that the United States should have required the release of political dissidents.

Pope Francis visits with Cuba’s President Raul Castro, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, September 20, 2015.


In a press conference, Lombardi said that after the Holy Mass at Havana’s Revolution Square, the Holy Pontiff traveled to the residence of Commander Fidel Castro and met him and several relatives for 40 minutes.

Pope Francis and Cuba's Fidel Castro shake hands in Havana Cuba Sunday Sept. 20 2015. The Vatican described the 40-minute meeting at Castro's residence as informal and familial with an exchange of books