The Day's Events
- 09:00 - Holy Mass at Plaza de la Revolución (Homily of the Holy Father)
- 16:30 - Farewell Ceremony at José Martí international airport of La Habana (Address of the Holy Father)
- 17:00 - Departure by plane from the José Martí international airport of La Habana for Roma
- Pope calls for "Authentic" Freedom in Cuba, by Randal C. Archibold and Rachel Donadio. (New York Times 3/28/12). In the heart of Revolution Square in Cuba, with towering images of guerrilla heroes staring back at him, Pope Benedict XVI called Wednesday for “authentic freedom” in one of the world’s most authoritarian states.
- Pope, at Mass, calls for full religious freedom in Cuba (Catholic News Service 3/28/12):
Preaching at Mass in Havana's Revolution Square, location of the headquarters of Cuba's Communist Party, Pope Benedict XVI called for full religious freedom and greater respect for human rights on the island.
"In Cuba steps have been taken to enable the church to carry out her essential mission of expressing the faith openly and publicly," the pope said during his homily March 28. "Nonetheless, this must continue forward."
With President Raul Castro seated near the altar platform, the pope said, "I wish to encourage the country's government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole."
- Pope asks Castro for more church freedom, Good Friday holiday, by Cindy Wooden (Catholic News Service 3/28/12). Pope Benedict XVI spent more than 40 minutes meeting privately with Cuban President Raul Castro and asked the Cuban leader for further freedoms for the Catholic Church in Cuba and attention to certain "humanitarian" situations.
- Ladies in White arrested before pope's Havana Mass, by Francis X. Rocca. (Catholic News Service 3/28/12):
A few hours before they planned to attend an outdoor Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, members of a Catholic dissident group were reportedly arrested by Cuban police.
Alejandrina Garcia de la Rivas and Laura Maria Labrada Pollan, members of the Ladies in White -- "Damas de Blanco" -- were arrested before 6 a.m. March 28, said Blanca Reyes, a member of the organization who now lives Madrid, Spain.
- The Pope meets Fidel, but not dissidents, by Giacomo Galeazzi. (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 3/28/12).
- Pope meets Cuba's Fidel Castro, slams U.S. embargo (Reuters 3/28/12). Pope Benedict called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and met with revolutionary icon Fidel Castro on Wednesday as he ended a trip in which he urged the communist island to change.
- Pope Calls for Freedom and Dialogue - Leaves Havana With Promise of Prayer for a Better Future (Zenit 3/28/12).
- Raúl Castro declares Holy Friday national holiday after Pope’s visit (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 4/1/12):
Cuba’s President Raúl Castro has declared Holy Friday celebrated on 6 April as a national holiday, after Pope Benedict XVI requested this during his recent visit to Cuba. The news was reported by Granma, the Cuban Communist party’s daily newspaper.
According to Granma Castro agreed to recognise this coming Holy Friday as a national holiday “in consideration of His Holiness and for the positive outcome of his extraordinary visit to our Country.” It will be up to the government, he said, to decide whether to make this decision permanent.
- Cuba releases political prisoners as Pope Benedict departs (The Tablet 3/31/12):
Hundreds of dissidents were released from Cuban prisons in the 48 hours after Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the communist-run island came to a close, according to a religious rights agency.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said political opponents of the regime across the country were released after spending the week in prison or under house arrest to stop them from attending any of the services during the Pope's visit.
- Lombardi: "The pope’s visit was an intimate meeting with two peoples" (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 3/30/12).