Pope’s Cuban Visit Draws Strong Local Reaction

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Pope Benedict XVI leaves Mexico

Pope Benedict XVI leaves Mexico on his way to the communist nation of Cuba. (Source: CNN)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Pope Benedict XVI is in Cuba Monday evening preparing for a mass inside the Lady of Charity Church. While people are packed inside the church in Cuba, there are mixed emotions about the Pope’s visit in South Florida.

“I wish that he could solve Cuba’s problems so that might brothers that are here and the ones that are over there can have liberty the same way we have it here,” said Juan Ramon Valdes, who left Cuba six years ago.

Julia Malconn left the communist island 51-years-ago and finally returned for the papal visit.

“It’s amazing,” Malconn said. “I never thought I’d do this. It’s a gift that God has given me. To go with my three daughters and to see the Pope.”

Malconn, 89, and her children were part of a group of 300 invited to travel to Cuba alongside Archbishop Thomas Wensky. Cuban exiles across Miami want everyone to see the reality in the Cuban nation.

An assembly of 50 organizations has partnered in Miami to set up a phone bank to field calls from Cuba detailing communist repression.

“They are going to try very hard to mask Cuba’s reality,” said Sylvia Irondo of MAR por Cuba. “There have many arrests and detentions and many others are isolated inside their homes so they can’t reach and not participate in these masses.”

So far, they have compiled a list of more than 100 people arrested leading up to the Papal visit. The group believes communist Cuba has gone as far as orchestrating who’s sitting in church services Monday night.

“I don’t see how the regime can hid Cuba’s reality from the Pope,” said Orlando Gutierrez. “I think there are many people there that will make it a point to express what’s going on.”

Click here for a list of places you can see the Pope’s mass Monday night.

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