Havana has been getting ready for Pope Francis’s visit on Saturday (September 19). On Thursday, many Cubans watched a televised message from the pontiff asking for prayers.
Pope Francis said he was coming as a “missionary of God’s mercy and tenderness.”
Some Cubans said the pope’s visit will have strong historical significance.
“Very emotional to here Francisco’s message,” said housewife Lourdes Estrada. “At least for me and I think for the Cuban people it touched the deepest parts of our hearts because we need to have faith. We need to have a belief.”
“Ninety percent [of the population] is willing to participate in this important event, which will have a crucial impact for the moment we are going through, for our country,” said retiree Julio.
The pope will spend four days in Cuba before flying to the United States. He is visiting both countries for the first time as pontiff, after Vatican mediation last year led to a restoration of ties between Washington and Havana.
The pope will celebrate mass in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution on Sunday.
Vatican officials say Francis’s mission is pastoral, not political, and people should expect no diplomatic message.