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Pope's Visit Brings Hope To Cuba's Future

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Preparations are in full swing in Cuba for this weekend's arrival of Pope Francis.

Workers spent the weekend putting the finishing touches on the cathedral in Havana. Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive Saturday afternoon and celebrate a Mass in Havana's Revolution Square on Sunday.

The pontiff will travel to other parts of Cuba before departing Tuesday for Washington D.C.

A small contingent of priests and followers from Miami are traveling to Havana for the pope's visit.

"The pope is a bridge builder, that's what the world pontiff means, and so he is trying to build bridges that will surmount walls," said Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

One of the walls that the pope has helped to partially scale is the one between Cuba and the U.S.

"This is a pope that generates an enormous amount of enthusiasm. The Cuban people love him and he's untied the "Gordian Knot" of the U.S. and Cuba relations. He has been influential in doing that and for that it is deeply appreciated and loved in Cuba," said Cuban-American businessman Carlos Saladrigas.

Saladrigas has made plans to be in Cuba for the pope's visit.

"While I always dreamed about this moment, I never thought it would happen so soon," he said.

That's because 17 years ago when Pope John Paul II visited Cuba, Saladrigas played a major role in criticizing Archbishop Wenski and the Archdiocese for wanting to charter a cruise ship to island so they could attend the papal Mass. In the end, a smaller group went to Cuba by plane.

"Many people opposed the trip then when they say the pope in Cuba on TV, they said I could have been there, they made the mistake to oppose the cruise ship," said Archbishop Wenski.

Saladrigas now admits that he made a mistake.

"I and the others could have been there holding hands with our brothers and sisters in such a joyous moment and to hear the words of hope, I missed that opportunity," said Saladrigas.

When Pope Benedict visited Cuba in 2012 Saladrigas was sure to be there. Now more than ever, he says it's his mission to share the joy and hope that Pope Francis is bringing to the Cuban people on and off the island.

"He is giving them a vision that a different future is possible and that all it needs is for all Cubans to work together and to build," said Saladrigas. "It's going to take sacrifice, forgiveness, reconciliation, a lot of things, but we can do it."

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