Pope Benedict XVI begins a stay of nearly three days in Cuba, where he appealed to the Cubans for the renewal of faith and building an open society.
The pope celebrated mass at the Revolution Square in Santiago where Cuban President Raul Castro, has presented wearing the traditional white “guayabera” shirt.
The Archbishop of Santiago Dionisio Garcia, noted “the pride” of all Cubans to receive the Pope.
Benedict said in his speech that he was the Cubans in his heart and they were in his prayers. He also defended the role of family and marriage as “fundamental unit of society and the true domestic Church.”
Benedict has called for the Cubans give new impetus to their faith.
Cuban President warmly welcomed the pope although just a few days ago Benedict XVI said that the Marxist system on the island was out of date.
“It is clear that Marxist ideology was interpreted as no longer corresponds to reality,” Benedict said in the beginning of his journey in the Americas.
In his speech today, the Pope also criticized capitalism that has left humanity without values and defenseless against the ambition and selfishness of certain powers.”
Raul Castro assured the pope that Cuba promotes complete freedom of religion and the country has good relations with all religious institutions.
“The Cuban constitution ensures and guarantees full religious freedom for all citizens,” the president said.
Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, made a historic tour to Cuba in 1998. The late pontiff had made the famous speech wishing that Cuba “can embrace the world and the world to open up to Cuba.”
Benedict is scheduled to visit Havana Tuesday where he will meet the Cuban president.
One of the official reasons for his visit to Cuba is the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of the Virgin of Charity El Cobre, the patroness of Cuba.
Cuba is the second and final stage of his stay in Hispanic Latin America, after Mexico, where his visit generated a lot of fervor.