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MIAMI (CBS4) – While the Cuban community paraded the 400-year-old statue of the their Patron Saint, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre into the town of Casablanca; Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega spoke about the Pope’s upcoming visit to Cuba in 2012.

During his visit, Pope Benedict XVI plans to hold a public mass in Santiago de Cuba and in the city’s capital of Havana.

“The goal of the Pope is to visit the sanctuary, the shrine of the Virgin in El Cobre and to celebrate mass there in Santiago de Cuba and here in Havana,” said Ortega.

The 84-year old pontiff is also expected to meet with members of President Raul Castro’s government and possibly discuss economic reforms.

The visit is 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.

“It would be a benediction, a blessing for Cuba, for the people,” Ortega said. “It would be, for the Church, a wonderful occasion to meet the Holy Father among our people.”

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.

The Cuban religious community is starting preparations now for the visit which has yet to have an official date.

“We are waiting for him. We are preparing the visit and that’s why now I’m leaving this group to go to a meeting for the preparation of the visit of the Pope,” said Ortega.

Cuba’s church has played an increasingly important role in recent years. It helped negotiate the release of political prisoners in 2009 and 2010.

The trip to Cuba may also include a stop in Mexico.


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