Pope Benedict XVI recently made an "Apostolic Journey" to Mexico and the Republic of Cuba. According to news reports, the Pope visited Cuba in the hopes of reviving the Catholic faith there and to press for greater freedoms for his church.
On Tuesday the Pope visited the Basílica Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre (National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity) in El Cobre. At the church is a statue of Mary holding a baby Jesus in a depiction called Our Lady of Charity also known as Our Lady of Cobre. The statue was found by two men and their slave around 1612 and is elaborately adorned in gold cloth and jewels.
In 1998, Pope John Paul II, on his visit to Cuba, crowned the small statue and named Our Lady of Cobre as the patroness and "Queen of Cuba" during a papal Mass.
The current Pope's visit takes place as part of the Jubilee Year to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue. During the Pope's Tuesday visit to the statue he prayed:
"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."
Cuban President Raul Castro attended the two masses offered by the Pope.
In an Associated Press article on the Pope's visit, some Cuban's are quoted as expressing dissatisfaction on the hoopla surrounding the visit and their being encouraged to participate. "I'm here to support the leaders of our government, to support our revolution," said Dioleisis Fontela, a university professor.
Fidel Castro met with the Pope in Havana on Wednesday. He said he decided on the meeting after hearing from Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez about the Pope's willingness to meet.
In his recent reflection entitled "The Hard Times of Humanity" the leader of the Cuban Revolution talked about the meeting with the head of State of the Vatican.
"I will happily greet His Excellency Pope Benedict XVI, as I did with Pope John Paul II in 1998, a man for whom contact with children and the humble raised feelings of affection."
Before arriving on his trip to Mexico and Cuba, the Pope said that Marxism as it was originally conceived is irrelevant for today's reality.