MIAMI (CBS4) – The Roman Catholic Church announced Monday that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cuba this spring.
The visit would be especially meaningful to the Catholic community in Cuba because they are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, which is Cuba’s patron saint.
At the Shrine of Our Lady Charity in Miami, some parishioners said if it’s true, the visit will be a very good thing for Cuba.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing that the pope goes and he shows how important it is for people to get together, to pray and love on another,” said Olivia Gonzalez.
Retired Auxiliary Bishop Agustin Roman collected funds and helped build the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity. He said a papal visit during Cuba’s celebration of its patron saint will have a tremendous meaning to the people of Cuba.
“I think that the people will react positive because they will have the opportunity to see him, to hear him and to pray with him,” said Roman.
This will be Cuba’s second papal visit. Pope John Paul II visited the island nation in 1998 and was well received by the thousands who attended a mass he celebrated.
“It will be a watershed moment for the Cuban church as was the visit of John Paul II in 1998,” said Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski. “The pope goes on a mission of hope and as he has said many times ‘A world without God is a world without hope, without a future’ and I think he comes to announce a future of hope for the island of Cuba.”
Cuba’s church has played an increasingly important role in recent years. It helped negotiate the release of political prisoners in 2009 and 2010.
During his trip, the 84-year old pontiff is expected to meet with members of President Raul Castro’s government and possibly discuss economic reforms.
The trip to Cuba may also include a stop in Mexico.