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About 200 members of Archdiocese of Miami make pilgrimage to Cuba

Pilgrims take supplies for those in need in Cuba

It was an early start for those making the pilgrimage to Cuba Friday morning. Almost 200 members of the Archdiocese of Miami are joined by the faithful from around the U.S. to visit the island for Pope Francis' historical trip.
It was an early start for those making the pilgrimage to Cuba Friday morning. Almost 200 members of the Archdiocese of Miami are joined by the faithful from around the U.S. to visit the island for Pope Francis' historical trip.

MIAMI – It was an early start for those making the pilgrimage to Cuba Friday morning. Almost 200 members of the Archdiocese of Miami are joined by the faithful from around the U.S. to visit the island for Pope Francis' historical trip.

"Hope" is the theme among those making the trip.

Donna McDonald has been to Cuba before but has been anxiously waiting for this opportunity to once again share her fellowship with the people of Cuba.

"They're going to see us and say 'Hey, the people of Miami are coming but not just for the pope. They're coming for us," McDonald said as she showed Local 10 News reporter MJ Acosta her bags filled with crackers, medicine and baby food for those in need on the island.

While the Miami pilgrims wait to board their charter flight to Cuba, others like Don Juan Perez and his two brothers are showing their support through aid.

They immigrated to the U.S. as children and have been waiting for decades to visit the island. They said because of the political strife, they were denied the special visas they need to join the pilgrimage.

Despite their disappointment, these medical doctors are sending their support for the native land and honoring the Pontiff's spirit of mercy and service by sending medical supplies and medicine.

Perez said they remain hopeful that they will one day be granted the visas as Cuba is still very much in their hearts.

"We prevailed, we survived and persevered. Even though we can't go yet, we still want to give back," Perez said as he added another box of medicine to the bag of supplies.

Archbishop Thomas Wenksi is leading the pilgrimage with the Archdiocese of Miami. As he guides the faithful, Wenksi took a moment to reflect on the impact this papal visit could have on a country he holds dear to his heart. 

"This trip is so important. It's like a dream come true," Wenski said. "Since I was in high school I've been listening to Cuban radio, speaking Spanish and drinking cafecito in Little Havana. So to be able to go there while Pope Francis visits, for me is also a bit of a homecoming."

The group is set to arrive Friday morning. Coordinators told Local 10 News that the group will gather at Miramar Park Saturday afternoon to watch the Pope drive by after his arrival in Cuba.

On Sunday they will attend the Papal Mass. According to members of the Archdiocese, it is rumored that the Pope will exit the Pope Mobile and make his way around the Plaza.

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