Date
18 January 2017
Pope Francis arrives in Revolution Square in Havana. The pontiff urged Cubans to serve one another and also offered a warning about power. Photo: AFP
Pope Francis arrives in Revolution Square in Havana. The pontiff urged Cubans to serve one another and also offered a warning about power. Photo: AFP

Pope meets Fidel Castro, warns Cuba about power

Pope Francis met former Cuban President Fidel Castro on Sunday shortly after dissidents said they were detained to prevent them from attending a papal mass.

The pope spoke with a giant portrait of the revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara at his side in the iconic Revolution Square, seen as the symbolic heart of Cuba’s communist government.

It’s where Cubans have heard Fidel Castro deliver his speeches.

Pope Francis offered a warning about power but he mostly avoided overtly political commentary, instead calling on Cubans to serve one another, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Service is never ideological, for we don’t serve ideas, we serve people,” he said.

“Don’t neglect them for plans which can be seductive but are unconcerned about the face of the person beside you.”

The pope arrived in Havana on Saturday, kicking off the first leg of a trip that will bring him to the US later this week.

During an arrival ceremony at the airport on Saturday, he told President Raul Castro that the Catholic Church in Cuba should have the “freedom, the means and the space needed” to evangelize and provide charitable service to the island’s people.

The visit comes at a time of cautious optimism in Cuba after the pope helped broker the renewal of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US.

Many Cubans hope the opening will lead to tourism and investment to help lift a weak economy, while many in the US hope it will someday lead to a political change in Cuba as well.

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