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Locals Celebrate Papal Mass Across South Florida

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A sense of excitement and spirituality filled churches and homes across South Florida Sunday, as Pope Francis celebrated his first mass in Cuba.

Families watched live coverage of the Papal Mass from their televisions—witnessing a historic event and taking in the Popes message of hope.

"Look at the people, so many people," said a teary-eyed Jean Pilkington as she watched the massive crowds gathered in Havana's la Plaza de la Revolucion. "I've been praying for this to happen… I think the world is going to change for the better."

Churchgoers at St. Brendan Catholic Church in Weschester showed up early for Sunday mass. Many wanted to pray for the Pope and get home in time to watch his mass on as it happened.

"We can offer mass for the Pope and for the Cuban people so all may go well," said Gladys Issa who arrived an hour early to services with her husband. "We pray for his safety so  he can have strength because this is a long trip for the Pope, a whole week, and we're looking forward to it."

Pope Francis, who helped broker the beginning of reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba, has won over the hearts of many Catholics. According to a CBS/New York Times poll, 79% of American Catholics approve of the direction Pope Francis is taking the Catholic Church.

"He's a people's pope," said Guy Issa. "He wants people to have a better life so he tries to reconcile the nations, Cuba and the United States, for the good of the people."

At La Carreta Cuban restaurant in Miami, the papal mass aired on big screen TV's while people ate breakfast. For many Cuban-Americans, the arrival of the first Latin American pope to their country was a powerful moment, but some say the popes dual visit to Cuba and the U.S. is too political and they don't believe it will bring any change to the communist country.

"I don't agree with all the promotion for a communist country throughout the world," said Luis Leon who fled to Miami from Cuba decades ago.

Others said they believe Pope Francis' message of hope will bring change not only in Cuba, but around the world.

"He is a guy for the people," said Cuban-American Radames Villalon. "I think he gives hope to the people."


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