VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI ended his three-day visit to Cuba on Wednesday (March 28) with an appeal for more religious freedom for the Catholic Church, ahead of a highly anticipated meeting with the island’s historic leader, Fidel Castro.
And while he stopped short of openly criticizing the island’s communist regime during the trip, Benedict nonetheless said Cuba needed “change” and a “renewed and open society.”
The pope celebrated Mass on Wednesday in Havana’s Revolution Square for about 300,000 people, according to the Vatican’s top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
Cuban President Raul Castro was in attendance and joined in the crowd’s applause when the pope entered the stage.
Benedict and Raul Castro had had a 40-minute private meeting on Tuesday where, according to Lombardi, the pope asked Castro to consider making Good Friday a national holiday and made some “humanitarian requests.” No details were given about the details of Benedict’s requests.