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Revolution Square mass on last day of Papal visit to Cuba

Revolution Square mass on last day of Papal visit to Cuba
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Pope Benedict XVI’s last day in Cuba was marked with a public mass in Havana’s Revolution Square.

Among the thousands who turned out were leading members of the government, dressed in white.

Prayers were held before a statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patron saint of Cuba.

The Pontiff’s visit has been popular in what is officially an atheist country, with Benedict calling for a more open society.

Before returning to Rome, the Pope will also have a short meeting with former president Fidel Castro.

Benedict’s visit has reinvigorated the campaign run by Cuba’s Ladies in White – the movement made up of female relatives of jailed dissidents. Members march every Sunday in protest.

Some were detained over the weekend and later released, but there are reports that members were arrested ahead of the Pope’s public mass on Wednesday.

However, the Pontiff’s words have impressed the group.

“It’s very important for us Cubans that the Pope comes with a message of love, a message of freedom and confidence, of faith and peace. This is precisely what Cubans need,” said leader Berta Soler Fernandez.

Benedict had a private meeting with president Raul Castro to discuss humanitarian issues. The Pope has also asked for the government to declare Good Friday a public holiday because of its importance for Catholics.