MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Pope Benedict XVI historic trip to Cuba coincides with the 400th anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba’s patron. The statue is housed in a church in an old copper mining town on the southeastern coast of Cuba, where Benedict will pray.
In Coconut Grove, there is also a shrine to Virgin of Charity; an image of the Virgin Mary which appeared to three Cuban fishermen fighting rough seas in Caribbean, in a chapel at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
“It was a storm, a huge storm and in that process they actually prayed,” said Father Juan Sosa. “So when they discovered the image in the rough seas after the storm, they ere able to identify is as ‘Our Lady’.”
In Cuba, the shrine to Our Lady of Charity is in the town of Cobre on the eastern end of the island. It’s here that Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate mass.
“It will be for the church a wonderful occasion,” said Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana.
Cardinal Ortega has spent weeks preparing Cuba’s Catholics for the papal visit. Numerous masses have been celebrated which honored Our Lady of Charity and a statue of the saint has crisscrossed the island for the faithful to see.
Father Sosa is part of the Miami delegation who making a pilgrimage to Cuba during the papal visit.
“I’m very excited because I was there in 1998 for the first pope and I saw how people were beside themselves and they saw a sign of hope at that time,” said Father Sosa.
Father Sosa said that the fact the pontiff is visiting during the anniversary of Our Lady of Charity is a real honor.
“It makes it very special, especially that he is going to the town of Cobre,” said Father Sosa. “The fact that he is going to be there, and praying for many things including the church in Cuba.”