Miami pilgrim: Pope's Cuba visit 'moment of hope'

S. Floridians attend Mass in Havana

HAVANA - Hundreds of South Floridians are in Cuba for Pope Benedict XVI's visit, and many of them attended a Mass in Havana on Tuesday led by Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

The Archdiocese of Miami organized the pilgrimage to Cuba as a show of support for the church on the communist island. For the trip, the Archdiocese reached out to those who opposed Pope John Paul II's visit to the island 14 years ago.


BLOG: Inside Havana

"He is certainly trying to build on the legacy of John Paul II, which did bring about greater space for the church here in Cuba," Wenski said.

"The visit of the holy father is a moment of hope," said MIami businessman Carlos A. Saladrigas. "It's a moment of happiness. It's a moment of coming together as a nation with the things that bring us together, which is the faith and the belief in Our Lady of Charity."

Some South Floridians spoke to Local 10 about their trip.

"Certainly, it was sad to see the poverty out in the countryside, because we were able to do that," said Billie Jo Wanink, of Delray Beach. "It's wonderful to see the change here, Havana, obviously, a little more progressive." 

"It's an exceptional opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Mary Quinn, of Fort Lauderdale. "I never thought that I would ever get to Cuba."

In Revolution Square on Tuesday, workers made the final touches ahead of the papal Mass scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Saladrigas said the moment will be historic.

"Like any event of importance, I think it's going to take time for the conclusions to settle and for us to understand what impact he has really had," Saladrigas said.

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