Five-year anniversary of pope's trip to Cuba to promote reconciliation with the U.S.
In December 2014, Barack Obama and Raul Castro decided to resume diplomatic relations, and, surprisingly, thanked Pope Francis for his help promoting reconciliation between the two countries.
For this reason, nine months later, Pope Francis undertook a symbolic trip to Cuba and the U.S., to promote the process. This is how he explained it to the press during the flight to Havana.
"I want to thank you for everything you do. For all your work and also for building bridges. They may be small, but by connecting one small bridge to another, a main bridge of peace can be built.
In Cuba, Raul Castro greeted him at the runway and showed that not all issues were resolved.
President of Cuba
“The [U.S.] blockade, which leads to human damage and limits to the Cuban family, is cruel, immoral and illegal. It needs to stop. The territory used by Guantanamo Naval Base should be given back to Cuba.
“I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities as proof of the high service which they are called to carry out on behalf of the peace and the well-being of its people, of the Americas, and as an example of reconciliation for the entire world.”
In Havana, hundreds of thousands of people attended the pope's Mass in the Plaza de la Revolución.
After the ceremony, the pope visited Fidel Castro privately in his own home.
The meeting with Raul Castro was at the official seat of the Cuban president. Before saying goodbye to the press, the pope thanked him for pardoning 3,500 prisoners.
"I want to thank you for the warm and hospitable reception... I also want to thank you for the pardons."
To commemorate the meeting, Castro gave the pope a crucifix made of paddles from Cuban rafters that had tried to reach the United States coast.
In Havana, the pope met with young people to talk to them about their future.
"Open yourself, open yourself, and dream. Dream that the world with you can be different. Dream that if you give the best of yourself, you are going to help make the world better.”
In Santiago de Cuba, at the shrine of its patron saint, Our Lady of Caridad del Cobre, he remembered the Cuban grandmothers and mothers who kept the faith of the people throughout the years of repression.
"They kept open a tiny space, small as a mustard seed, through which the Holy Spirit continued to accompany the heartbeat of this people."
That same morning, Raul Castro personally said goodbye to him at the Santiago airport.
The two leaders talked as they walked to the plane, where they shook hands for the last time.
From there, Pope Francis left for Washington, D.C.