MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Youth groups from South Florida who made the pilgrimage to Cuba to see Pope Francis arrived back in South Florida Monday evening.
Undoubtedly, they returned with memories they will keep for their entire lives.
As Pope Francis wraps up his trip in the island nation, it seems his visit served as yet another reminder of what is possible as Cuba tries to open itself up to the rest of the world after decades of isolation.
Meantime, there was no question left as to who the pope believes is responsible for the future in Cuba; the vibrant young people who are filled with hope and ready to lead.
Some of those who followed the pontiff to Cuba spoke to CBS4’s Cynthia Demos just after their return at Miami International Airport.
“It was wonderful. It was exciting to be part of history. You know it’s not everyday you get to see a pope,” said Victoria Machau from Pembroke Pines. “I definitely feel the renewed sense of energy and hope just from being there and being with everyone else.”
“I never thought I’d have an opportunity to meet Pope Francis, ” said Melissa Guarino. “I don’t think you can compare it to anything. I don’t speak Spanish so I couldn’t understand much of what was going on but I could feel it. I could feel Jesus there with us through all the work that Pope Francis was doing and with all the people receiving his message so it was really great.”
For Guarino, the message was clear, inspirational and motivational.
“The message I was left with was that young people could change the world. Pope Francis is doing a lot to re-energize the church and he is bringing young people back to the church which is going to be a great thing.”
Tania Goyanes told CBS 4’s Oralia Ortega, it was her first time back in her birth country in 36 years and the trip was bittersweet.
“People have a very strong will but it’s sad because everything looks like it’s undernourished, you know, even all across the board. Even flowers,” said Goyanes.
In spite of the conditions and the political issues that plague the island nation, for the most part the pilgrims came back filled with hope.
“Obviously a little disappointing and depressing what’s happened, the state of the country but at the same time, you get a sense of hope. You talk to the people and they have so much hope right now,” said Hilda Fernandez, a Miami Lakes resident.
And while these pilgrims are going home to get some rest after flying back home from Cuba, there are others getting ready to hop on a bus to Washington D.C. to see Pope Francis for his trip to the U.S.
“I see him in Cuba and I see they are going crazy there for him and I hope we have that same enthusiasm here in D.C.,” said William Young, who’s making the pilgrimage to the nation’s capital.
Elizabeth Carillo, who has never seen a pope before, is hoping to at least catch a glimpse as she prays with her rosary.
She will pray during his meeting with the president.
“I will be saying Pope please bless me and my family in this country, especially this country,” said Carillo.
The group is scheduled to leave for Washington D.C. Tuesday at 10 a.m.
Click here for complete coverage of the pope’s visit.