While addressing pilgrims yesterday from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI asked for prayers for his six day trip to Mexico and Cuba, which will begin on Friday of this week.
According to The Washington Post, the pope said he was going to “confirm the faith of Christians in these beloved nations and all of Latin America” and to help spur progress in both countries with a renewal of the faith.
The trip will be brief but busy. He will depart from Rome on Friday morning and arrive in Leon Mexico, located in the central state of Guanajuato. He will be greeted on the tarmac by Mexican President Felipe Calderón, along with a mariachi band. Thousands are expected to line the streets along his route to the school of Miraflores.
“I imagine, the Mexican people will be out along the streets, welcoming the Pope. It will surely be a great part of the first day,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, to RomeReports.
Saturday will be a day of rest for him with no appointments scheduled until 6:00 p.m. when he will visit with President Calderone and his family in the public building of Casa del Conde Rul. This will be followed by a meeting with local children in the town’s Plaza of Peace.
On Sunday morning, March 25, the pope will celebrate Mass in the symbolic Bicentennial Park, in the city of León, at the foot of the Cubilete mountain, and plans to meet with the bishops of Mexico and Latin America in the cathedral of Leon.
“All the presidents of the Episcopal conferences of Latin America are invited as well,” Fr. Lombardi said. “Mexican bishops have also invited representatives from Canada and the United States.”
On Monday March 26, Benedict XVI will head to Santiago de Cuba, where he will be welcomed by Raul Castro and will celebrate Mass on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the island’s patron saint, Our Lady of Charity. The pope will stay at the residence of shrine’s priest, which has been preparing for his visit.
On Tuesday he will fly to Havana, where he will meet again with President Raul Castro and other members of his family, which will likely include his brother Fidel. He will also meet with the bishops of Cuba, and then remain that night in the nunciature.
On Wednesday the 28th, the pope will celebrate Mass on Revolution Square, close to the famous image of Che Guevara. In the afternoon, there will be a farewell ceremony at the airport, before a twelve-hour flight back to Rome.
Crowds are expected to be large and enthusiastic in both countries. According to the Associated Press, a glass case containing blood from Blessed John Paul II recently traveled through Mexico for 91 days and drew an estimated 27 million people.
The Mexican population is 84 percent Catholic and 60 percent of Cubans are members of the Church in spite of years-long restrictions on their ability to worship in that communist nation.
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