Pope leaves Cuba for home with impact still unknown

Pope Benedict concluded his first official visit to Cuba after meeting with former President Fidel Castro and holding a Mass before a multitude gathered in Havana’s Revolution Square. During his trip, which included a stop in Mexico, the pope called on Cuba’s government to reconsider Marxism and urged the people to embrace the faith of their elders.

In his homily, the pontiff spoke of his joy at the recent increase in freedom given to the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba. But he also referred to the isolation of a country that has been under a U.S. embargo for the past 50 years.

“Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity,” he said.

Before arriving in Cuba, Benedict called on the government to recognize that Marxism, in his words, “no longer corresponds to reality.”

At a press conference on Tuesday, the official in charge of economic reforms, Vice President Marino Murillo, rejected the pope’s critique. “In Cuba there won’t be political reform,” he said.

Images of Marxist revolutionary heroes Ernesto “Che” Guevarra and Camilo Cienfuegos were visble in the square as the faithful prayed to God.

It was hot, even for Cubans, and it was hard to see from so far away. But it was still meaningful for Clara Martínez.

“Having the pope in Cuba is very important for religious people. I think it’s an unforgettable experience and may be the last time. It’s not often that the pope visits,” Ms. Martiínez said.

Catholics remember Pope John Paul’s visit in 1998. They are a small minority in Cuba, which has a variety of religious groups.

The Vatican is hoping to win over the many Cubans who mix Catholic and African traditions.

Katia Ogania may be prepared to convert.

“I’m an atheist. But I wouldn’t mind, because if it’s for the good of my people. I’m there,” Ogania said.

Many people came out of faith, many out of curiosity. But few expect that Benedict’s visit will lead to any real political change.

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