Pope Benedict urges renewed faith in Cuba

(CBS News) After four busy days in Mexico, Pope Benedict XVI is in Cuba where Pope John Paul II made one of his most historic visits 14 years ago.

On Tuesday, Benedict attends to the official purpose of his three-day visit: the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Virgin of Charity, a local saint.

Pope in Cuba as pilgrim of charity

On Monday evening, he addressed the masses. The mass in Santiago, Cuba, was not as large as the services in Mexico and the crowd was far less enthusiastic.

When Benedict visited the U.S. in 2008, the crowds were loud and joyous, sometimes raucous. Not in Cuba. When one man pushed his way too aggressively towards the stage, stage security ushered him off. In communist Cuba, public events are scripted.

Benedict never seemed to notice. He kept to his prepared remarks, saying, "Dear Brothers and sisters, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace and forgiveness and understanding that you may strive to build a renewed and open society."

With the collapse of communism around the world, economic hardships at home, and the gentle nudging of the Vatican, restraints on religion have eased.

Still, while most Cubans say they're Catholic, very few practice their faith.

So the curious may well have outnumbered the devout during Mass. State employees were given the day off to attend.

One of those employees is Lionel Moya, a cook at a government-run restaurant. He wanted the Pope to talk about freedom and jobs. CBS News met Moya outside his local barber shop. Barber shops, nail salons, and street vendors are just some of the small businesses now allowed in Cuba.

In downtown Santiago, for example, certain streets are closed to trucks and cars during business hours in an effort to draw foot traffic and boost sales. Privately owned restaurants and boutiques take space once reserved for state businesses.

People CBS News talked to seemed more interested in capitalism than Catholicism.

When asked if Moya is Catholic, he replied, "I stay in the middle."

Local parish priest Father Luis del Castillo taught at Fordham University in New York. He hopes the pope's visit will grow the church and encourage a long-suffering people.

He said the pontiff's visit is "a presence that invites more faith, more hope, more solidarity."

The pope next has a meeting in Havana with President Raul Castro. CBS News is told his brother Fidel is also expected attend.

The pope's presence in Cuba is expected to make a difference, chief national correspondent Byron Pitts said on "CBS This Morning." About 300 Cuban Americans chartered in for the pope's visit - many wealthy and influential people from South Florida and major contributors to the Republican Party. For some of them, this was their first visit back to Cuba in more than 50 years. Several told CBS News this event changed their view of Cuba.

For more on the pope's visit to Cuba with Byron Pitts, watch the video in the player above.

  • Byron Pitts

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

The Newsroom