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Pope calls on Cubans to live 'revolution of tenderness'

Published:Wednesday | September 23, 2015 | 9:00 AM
Children greet Pope Francis with flowers upon his arrival at Santiago de Cuba's airport, Cuba, recently. The Pope complete his 10-day visit and departed for the United States yesterday.

SANTIAGO (AP):

Pope Francis yesterday called on Cubans to rediscover their Catholic heritage and live a "revolution of tenderness", powerful words in a country whose 1959 revolution installed an atheist, communist government that sought to replace the church as the guiding force in people's lives.

Francis spoke at Mass at Cuba's holiest shrine, with President Ra?l Castro attending. The pontiff's homily in the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre was the latest in a series of carefully worded critiques of the Cuban system during his four-day trip.

At his Sunday Mass in Havana, he urged thousands of Cubans to serve one another and not an ideology. He also encouraged them to refrain from "looking to one side or the other to see what our neighbour is doing or not doing," words that resonated in a nation where the government controls most aspects of life.

REKINDLING RELIGIOUS HERITAGE

Some 10 per cent of Cubans regularly celebrate Mass, and the church has been trying to seize on the softening of the Cuban system under Ra?l Castro to rekindle the country's religious heritage.

"Generation after generation, day after day, we are asked to renew our faith," the pope said yesterday. "We are asked to live the revolution of tenderness as Mary, our Mother of Charity, did."

The pope spoke in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra mountains where Castro and his brother Fidel commanded a guerrilla army that swept through the country and seized power in 1959.

After decades of official hostility to the church, the government has been gradually giving it space to operate in recent years, handing it back churches to reopen

and allowing priests to run education programmes and extensive outreach to the poor, sick and elderly.