Fidel gave him a warm greeting and guided the fragile pontiff to the microphone. The Pope spoke in fluent Spanish for a few minutes and called this occasion "a wonderful and long-awaited day." He spoke a bit longer and held a small prayer.
Most of Havana’s citizens, even non believers, came to see the Pope's arrival, and those who couldn't gain entrance were lined on both sides of the streets cheering and waving Cuban and Papal flags for more than 18 kms. That day, Castro made sure that all workers had the day off for this significant moment. He wanted the Pope to feel the warmth and love of the Cuban people.
The faith and devotion shown by the large sea of crowds was overwhelming and after 40 years of waiting for some solid spirituality the time was finally right. It was madness all across Havana and families traveled on buses, Soviet built Ladas, USA-made cars from the ‘50s, 3 and 4 people on a bicycle, or by moto.
Until this day, the only public official that most of this generation had listened to was Fidel, giving several-hour long political discourses with the ubiquitous revolutionary rhetoric. That day, a different canvas was painted and tears were freely flowing. Cuban eyes glowed with a new hope of better things to come. That morning, on every corner of the city, hands -- old, young , white and black -- were holding hard unto the rosary beads.
"It took me two days to make it to Havana... now I can really go to heaven... for us Cubans seeing the Pope is a miracle" An old Cuban man with a gentle voice said as tears freely escaped his green eyes. His wife was overcome with emotions and just kept noodling in agreement as she too was crying.
During the next few days the Pope will be traveling across the island and will culminate his trip on Sunday with a mass at the Plaza de la Revolucion where a large image of revolutionary hero Che Guevara will be closely watching while sharing and savoring this moment with posters of the Pope and tall images of Christ. That final day in Cuba the Holy Father will be delivering hope and inspiration to citizens from all parts of this Caribbean Island.