Pope Francis, the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, visited Cuba and celebrated Mass in front of thousands of people in the eastern Cuban city of Holguin, on Monday. He also praised the sacrifices made by Cuba's Catholic Church.
Holgiun is his second stop on an eight-day, six-city tour that will also take him to the United States. Pope Francis met Fidel Castro, 89, communist leader of Cuba and the leader of socialist revolution in 1959, at his home in Havana on Sunday. Then Francis held a closed-door meeting with Raul, 84, brother of Fidel Castro, at the government's headquarters.
In 1961 US-Cuba relations were severed following efforts of the US to topple the communist Cuban regime and set of restrictions and sanctions that followed, aiming to enforce democratization and improvement on the human rights issues.
Relations between the United States and Cuba rapidly deteriorated soon after, and the United States broke off diplomatic relations in 1961.
In December 2014, with the assistance of Pope Francis, the first steps into a normalisation process between two countries were taken.
Obama took some steps to change in relations since the Cuban revolution, when the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the island Jan. 1, 1959, as Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries seized control in that year.
A little more than a month after a meeting between Obama and Castro at side lines of an Americas Summit, the US State Department removed Cuba from its state sponsors of terrorism list on May 29th, 2015, further easing the tensions between two countries.
Details of visit
Hundreds of people have made a seven-hour trip by bus from the eastern province of Guantanamo to arrive at Holguin. During his homily he mentioned peace, Christianity and humanism.
"I am aware of the efforts and I am aware of the sacrifices the Church in Cuba has carried out to take to all, even in the most remote locations, the word and the presence of Christ," said Pope Francis.
“Jesus Christ invites us slowly to overcome our preconceptions and our reluctance to think that others, much less ourselves, can change," the Pope added.
After a huge meeting in Holguin, Pope Francis travelled towards Cuba's second largest city, Santiago. Santiago holds an important place for Cuban history because Fidel Castro announced the revolution there on 1 January, 1959.
People climbed the walls in order to see Pope Francis for the first time in their lives.
"We want to ask the pope for peace, tranquility, unity around the world and to help us get back the base," said 54-year-old Noel Perez, voicing his hope that the pope would be able to convince the US to give up the Guantanamo Bay naval base on which it holds a permanent lease under a 1903 treaty.
"Francis is the third pope to visit us in Cuba, but the first Latin American, and he can help us get back the base," said Norales Mendoza, 45,
from Arroyo Hondo de Paraguay in Guantanamo province.
Pope Francis will leave Santiago on Tuesday.