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Pope Benedict Meets With Fidel Castro in Cuba

In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI meets with Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, March 28, 2012.
In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI meets with Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, March 28, 2012.

Pope Benedict has met with Cuba's former leader and revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, shortly the pontiff called for greater religious freedom on the island.

A Vatican spokesman said the meeting Wednesday occurred after the pope's outdoor mass in Havana's Revolution Plaza. The mass capped his first papal visit to Cuba.

On Wednesday morning, tens of thousands of Cubans filled the plaza that marks the island's communist revolution, with some holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the blazing sun.

A VOA reporter on the scene quoted some in the crowd as saying they thought it was great that Pope Benedict was in Cuba, but they do not expect his visit will have any effect on the country's political system.

The pope used his homily to praise the steps taken in Cuba to improve religious freedom, but he said more needs to be done.  He said the world and Cuba need to change by choosing "the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity," and seeking truth.



Religion and politics

The U.S. State Department said it asked the pope to raise with Cuban officials the case of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba after being convicted of crimes against the communist state.

A department spokeswoman said the request was made to the Vatican and through its diplomatic mission in Washington before Benedict arrived in Cuba on Monday.

Earlier Wednesday, a Vatican spokesman said the pope made a "humanitarian request" of Cuban President Raul Castro, but did not say if specific cases of political prisoners were discussed.

The spokesman said Pope Benedict also asked Mr. Castro to officially designate Good Friday, the day Christians observe the death of Jesus, as a national holiday.  

On Tuesday, the pontiff briefly met with Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother and successor.  

Pope Benedict went to Cuba on a mission to boost the Church's influence and encourage Cubans to seek political change in order to build a "renewed and open society."

But Vice President Marino Murillo said Tuesday "there will not be political reform" in Cuba.

The pope's visit comes 14 years after his predecessor, John Paul, made the first papal visit to the communist-run island. The Roman Catholic Church has since grown to become the most influential institution next to the government.  Cuba was officially an atheist state from 1959 until a constitutional change in 1992 abolished atheism as the state creed and called for separation of church and state.  At that time, the Communist Party also lifted its ban on members with religious beliefs.

Cuba is the last stop on the pontiff's five-day Latin American trip that began last week in Mexico.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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by: Gab to Teri, two separate issues
March 29, 2012 2:57 PM
All charities do some good, regardless of how corrupt they may be. Again, I will acknowledge what is right with Cuba and we will also acknowledge what is wrong with the United States Government. But religious organizations will never acknowledge their own corruption and criminal activities. And don't equate sex with robbing children of their innocence, followed by denial and protecting the guilty parties.

by: Okoro Leo C
March 29, 2012 10:23 AM
The papal visit to Cuba is in line with his divine calling to preach the gospel to the whole world. The Pope did not only bring the message of the good news, he also brings with him divine renewal, divine restoration and divine redemption to the good people of Cuba, who I am sure must feel greatly honoured and pleased to be so divinely favoured.

by: Teri
March 29, 2012 7:34 AM
Pope Benedict means well for Cuba. But Cuba's government takes care of its people. Storm shelters, food, clean water, schools. The US looks good on paper, but homeless people live in the woods, kids get shot in schools.
Sexual obsession is YOUR predicament, Gab, not the Catholic Churches, whose best mission is rescuing the dispossessed in countries where government DON'T care for them-running schools, shelters, food for the poor,and a sense of community.

by: Teri
March 29, 2012 7:25 AM
Pope Benedict means well for Cuba. But Cuba's government takes care of its people. Storm shelters, food, clean water, schools. The US looks good on paper, but homeless people live in the woods, kids get shot in schools.
Sexual obsession is YOUR predicament, Gab, not the Catholic Churches, whose best mission is rescuing the dispossessed in countries where government DON'T care for them-running schools, shelters, food for the poor,and a sense of community.

by: NVO
March 29, 2012 6:14 AM
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent to be the Comforter. NOT a pope! Peter is NOT the rock, Christ is=1Cor 10:4. The idea of a pope is NOT Biblical! You make the Word of God of NONE EFFECT through your traditions=Mark 7:13. The RC church is a CONFIRMED Amillennial/Replacement Theology church. Both doctrines based on and rooted in ANTI-SEMITISM. HIDEOUS!

by: Gab to Okiepapist
March 29, 2012 6:01 AM
The Pope is against contraception, but does not have to raise the millions of unwanted children born every year, nor pay for their health care, nor pickup their college expenses. The fact is, the Catholic Church has spends a fortune defending pedophile priests in the Court system, and paying off plaintiffs. The Pope states that homosexuality is an abomination, while he is obviously gay. The man is a hypocrite, the Church is a hypocrite.

by: hammar
March 28, 2012 9:55 PM
Pray and repent is all the Bible asks of us...not who we are or what
we pretend to be or know...Faith is our guide.

by: Alicia
March 28, 2012 9:29 PM
I rather be duped for my life time than spend eternity in hell.

by: NVO
March 28, 2012 4:03 PM
1Corinthians 10:4 tells us that CHRIST is the rock, NOT Peter. Imagine building a church on a man that denied you 3 times?! You duped catholics have no clue about Scripture for there is not one Bible in any RC church worldwide! Ratzinger is a MERE man, and the next pope will be the one who defects from the faith. See Malachi Martins prophesy.

by: ndbooster
March 28, 2012 9:59 AM
NVO: your comments on Pope Benedict have no merit. A vicar is a representative, or agent of a superior. The Holy Spirit has no superior. The Gospel of John has Jesus appointing Simon who he renamed Kephas or Peter which means rock in Aramaic and English or Petrus in Latin as His vicar. Jesus told us that His Church would last until He came again at the end of times. It is safe to assume that there would be successors of Kephas to lead Jesus' Church until His return.
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