MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Students at St. Agatha Catholic school in West Miami-Dade got more than a lesson in religion, watching Pope Benedict the 16th’s historic mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana Wednesday morning. They learned about the impact communism has had on religion on the island.

“It’s a great thing that he’s doing giving these people an actual religious mass, which is something they normally can’t have. It’s a great freedom that they barely get to experience,” said 8th grader, Oscar Sanz.

Many of the St. Agatha students are of Cuban descent and still have family there.

“I think today he really inspired these people and inspired a lot of us to know that he’s there to make a difference for these people,” said 8th grader Christina Torres.

Fellow 8th grader Cesar Sabates agreed.

“It makes them feel that the world hasn’t forgotten them, and we know what’s going on there and God is there.”

Even teachers here were anxious to see the leader of their faith in their family’s home country. They were awestruck when they learned many of the Cuban Catholics slept on the plaza steps overnight to attend the mass.

“That they risked it because it is scary for them to take that step and if my grandparents could be here to see this I think they’d be very pleased….it’s a hard thing to see and not be touched, and have hope that one day I’ll get to see Cuba for myself,” said social studies teacher Mirian Rodriguez.

The Pope’s message in Cuba was unusually politicized and South Florida worshipers noticed.

While attending a noontime mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, many of the faithful reflected on the Pope’s message, asking for more religious freedom in Cuba.

Though few people CBS4’s Natalia Zea spoke with believe the historic visit will change the rules of five decades of dictatorship.

Worshiper Maria Canellas said, “The Castros are there more than 50 years but at least it’s something, he said something. There must be freedom of religion for Cubans. More freedom.”


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