MIAMI SHORES (CBSMiami) – Just hours away from his departure to Cuba as leader of religious pilgrims bound to see Pope Benedict the 16th, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski helped the faithful prepare Saturday with a Mass.
“Lord be the companion of our journey,” Archbishop Wenski prayed.
Approximately South Florida’s faithful are preparing to begin their flights to Cuba, where the pope will arrive Monday for Masses in Santiago de Cuba and Havana. However, it is the Cuba portion of the trip that is being called historic. It is only the second time in history that a Pope will go to the communist country.
“I believe that he will touch their hearts and our hearts so that we can overcome the resentments and the hatred of the past and the present,” said the Archbishop.
The people who found the money, the time, and the patience to deal with Cuban government red tape are ready for an emotional journey.
Roslia Alea is excited. Her family left Cuba when she was four years old. That was 52 years ago. This will be her first time back to her birth country.
“You know after all these years,” said Roslia Alia, “I never thought I was gonna go back, you know, with the regime still there, the communist regime. Now we have the opportunity to pray with them.
Andy Gomez teaches Cuban politics at the University of Miami. He was born in Cuba.
I’m getting excited,” he said. “I am trying to somehow control my feelings because I really want to go down there, as I said before to take the temperature. I want to listen and I want to see whats going on in Cuba.
For many making the trip, it’s about more than just seeing the Holy Father. There is enough concern about that for the Archbishop to remind people why they are making the pilgrimage.
“I told the people to put themselves in that spiritual mindset of a pilgrim,” he said.
When the pontiff touches the soil of Cuba, he will be only the second pope to visit the island. Pope John Paul the second made the first, historic trip. What makes this visit special is that it comes on the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity, Cuba’s most sacred religious figure.
“We are making a great start to establishing the sound tradition of religious freedom and religious opportunity and we’re a part of that,” said the Archbishop.
This group of Pilgrims will leave Monday morning for a four day trip that many say they believe will be life changing.