Pope Benedict XVI heads to meet with Fidel Castro in Cuba.
The Pope will wrap things up in Cuba Wednesday with an open-air mass in hopes of reviving the Catholic faith in the communist-run country at the shrine of the Cuban revolution. Next, he will be meeting with Fidel Castro, the former President of the island country in the Caribbean.
Late on Tuesday, Castro announced that he would be happy to meet Pope Benedict in Havana. They were just waiting for the confirmation from Castro for the appointment to take place, as the Vatican had already stated that Benedict was available to visit with him.
“I will happily greet His Excellency Pope Benedict XVI as I did John Paul II, a man for whom contact with children and the humble raised feelings of affection,” Castro wrote. “That’s why I decided to ask for a few minutes of his very busy time when I heard from the mouth of our foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, that he would be agreeable.”
Pope Benedict XVI’s mass took place 14 years after John Paul preached at the same location in front of hundreds of thousands of people, including Fidel. At that mass, a photo of Jesus Christ was present opposite the iconic image of the revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara. This was an extraordinary development for the country that was officially atheist until 1992.
“I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans,” the pope said. “I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty.”