Pope Benedict XVI presided in Spanish, spoken clearly and in a strong voice, from a specially built shaded platform in front of the monument to Jose Marti. To his right was an orchestra and very large chorus that provided music unlike what he hears in Rome, and more beautiful.
Directly ahead of the pope were the plaza’s iconic images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos; if he turned to his right he saw a massive image of the Virgin of Charity hung on the façade of the national library, and to his left the national theater bore a banner reading “Charity Unites Us.”
The crowd at mass was large but not overwhelming, the size impossible to tell from my ant’s-eye view. It appeared to be a mix of the faithful, the curious, and some who attended briefly then departed. Some were from abroad. Crowds were calm, access was easy despite some closed streets, and traffic restrictions dissolved soon after the pontiff’s departure.
The religious message in the scripture readings and the homily had to do with truth, revealed by faith and reason, as the only true foundation of liberty.
Benedict turned to church-state relations in his homily. He expressed happiness at advances made in recent years, including in the church’s public expressions of religious faith, and he called for the church and authorities to continue on this path and to build on what has been achieved, “for the good of all.” The church is “seeking no privilege” in its effort to gain greater space, he said, and seeks only “to serve its founder.”
Cuban television reported that a brief visit took place between the pope and Fidel Castro today.