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At the end of March, the Pope kicked off his most important trips of the year, a visiting Mexico and Cuba. Upon arriving in Leon, Guanajuato, the enthusiasm of the Mexican was quite obvious.
"I will pray especially for those in need, particularly for those who suffer because of old and new rivalries, resentments and all forms of violence.”
Thousands of people lined up along the 20-mile journey from the airport to the Pope's temporary home, hoping to catch a glimpse and welcome him.
In Guanajuato, the Pope gathered with children and their families. He urged them to work to achieve peace.
A day later, with temperatures soaring, Benedict XVI did not hesitate in wearing a Mexican charro hat before an open-air mass with more than 500,000 people.
At the airport, these mariachis bid him farewell. The Pope responded with a "so long,” but Mexican President Felipe Calderon invited him to return as soon as possible, since Mexico, he said, was also his home.
From Mexico, Benedict XVI flew into Cuba. His arrival was more somber, but full of emotion. Raul Castro welcomed him in person.
"I am convinced that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons.”
By the afternoon, while thousands of people waited to celebrate Mass with the Pope, a protester spoke out against the Communist regime.
"Down with the dictatorship, out with Communism.”
Over 250,000 people attended the Mass, prominently featuring the patroness of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity. The Pope asked the faithful to be "armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding” to build a better society.
"I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God.”
In Havana, Benedict XVI met with Raul Castro at the Revolutionary Palace, which is the headquarters for Cuba's Communist Party. The Pope expressed concern for political prisoners, including the man who protested before the start of his Mass. He also urged Castro to declare Good Friday, a religious holiday to mark the day Jesus was crucified. Castro agreed and even gave the Pope a sculpture of the Our Lady of Charity.
Former leader Fidel Castro also visited Benedict XVI. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half, and was captured by this, now famous, picture. The two allegedly spoke about international politics, religion and the problems affecting mankind.
At the airport before leaving, Benedict XVI asked Cubans to solve their hardships with "patient and sincere dialogue, mutual comprehension and a will to listen.”
"May no one feel excluded from taking up this exciting task because of limitations of his or her basic freedoms, or excused by indolence or lack of material resources, a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people.”
Benedict XVI did not meet with dissidents, but mentioned them in his speeches. The Pope said he hopes for a peaceful transition and dialogue that won't worsen the delicate situation of Cubans.