Pope to Visit Cuba, Mexico

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and confirming he will travel to Mexico and Cuba in the spring, Pope Benedict XVI called on the people of Latin America to hold firm to their faith.

During his homily at the Mass Dec. 12 in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope prayed that God would guide the decisions of the Latin American people, so they could progress in “building a society based on the development of good, the triumph of love and the expansion of justice.”

Pope Benedict added that he intends “to make an apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba before Easter to proclaim the word of Christ and to strengthen the conviction that this is a precious time to evangelize with a steady faith, a lively hope and an ardent charity.”

Various Spanish language news outlets have reported the trip will take place between March 23 and 29.
In addition to marking the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, the pope’s Mass marked the bicentennials of many Latin American countries, which gained their independence from Spain between 1810 and 1825.

The pope said he could not let the anniversaries pass without demonstrating “the joy of the church for the many gifts which God, in his infinite goodness, has bestowed on these beloved nations throughout these years.”

The bicentennial celebrations should not only recall historical, social and political events, he said, they also should include recognition of the Christian faith of the vast majority of the region’s people and how that faith contributed to the development of society.

The Mass was celebrated in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin with several musical pieces – including the Kyrie and Gloria – drawn from the “Misa Criolla,” a 1964 composition in Spanish that includes elements of Latin American folk music. Latin American musicians sang and played traditional instruments such as the bombo drum, flute, guitars and various percussion instruments like goat nails.

Preceding the Mass, young people from Latin America and the Caribbean walked down the central aisle carrying flags from their home country; some wore colorful traditional costumes.

Concelebrating with the pope were Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state; Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City; and Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil.