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Pope arrives in Cuba to boost Church-state relations

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Pope arrives in Cuba to boost Church-state relations


More than 200,000 Cubans turned out to celebrate an open-air Mass with Pope Benedict as he continued his closely watched three-day visit to the communist-led island.

Earlier, the pope had delivered a carefully-worded arrival address, bringing with him a message of peace, freedom and reconciliation.

Cuba’s President Raul Castro was in the front row during the service. He was brought up as a Catholic and some hope the papal visit might act as a catalyst for more of his reforms.

Castro has already used the Church as an intermediary on issues such as political prisoners and dissidents, while moving forward with changes to Cuba’s struggling Soviet-style economy.

Pope Benedict is hoping to cement the Church’s recent gains and to boost its influence after four decades of state atheism.

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