Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pope to Donate Golden Rose to Cuba's Patron Saint

Pope Benedict XVI will donate a golden rose to the statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patroness of Cuba, during his March 26-28 visit to the island, Cuban officials told Efe on Tuesday.

The same sources said that the pontiff will likely meet with Fidel Castro during his stay in Havana.

The meeting could take place during the traditional visit the pope usually makes to the head of state - in this case, Fidel's younger brother Raúl - and to his family.

Though Fidel, 85, left power in 2006 due to a serious illness, he continues to be a dignitary of the highest importance, and for that reason, the officials said, the meeting is likely to take place, in the same way that Benedict XVI met with former Chancellor Helmut Kohl on his trip to Germany last September.

Fidel Castro considers Benedict XVI "a good person" and several years ago told a top Vatican official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was visiting the island at the time, that the pope has "the face of an angel."
On that occasion, Fidel asked Bertone to convey his invitation to the pope to visit Cuba.

The same sources also told Efe on Tuesday that it is highly probable that President Raul Castro will attend the Mass that the pontiff will officiate in the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana, just as Fidel Castro did when Pope John Paul II visited the island in 1998.

What does not seem probable is Fidel Castro's attendance at the Mass, since, officials said, everybody would be looking at him because it would be his first public appearance in months.

In addition, the exhaustion from staying several hours in the sun would not be good for his health, they said.
Benedict XVI will arrive March 26 at the airport in Santiago de Cuba, the first stop on his visit to the island, and will be received by Raul Castro and other officials.
In the city's main square he will officiate a Mass and afterwards will travel to El Cobre, where he will stay near the sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity at a priests' residence.

The golden rose will presumably be bestowed during the pope's visit to the patroness of Cuba at her sanctuary in El Cobre on the southwestern part of the island, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the finding of her statue.

John Paul II crowned Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre as patroness of Cuba on Jan. 24, 1998, during a Mass attended by 200,000 faithful.