(HAVANA) — Pope Francis met with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Cuba Sunday after this morning’s Mass, Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi said.
The pope then went to back to the Nunciature, and then with a small group, he went to Fidel Castro’s home for another meeting. Castro’s wife was also there with his sons and grandsons.
They were together for about 40 minutes. Francis gave Castro several books, a book and two CDs of homilies and a copy of his two encyclicals.
In return, Castro gave Francis an interview book entitled, “Fidel and Religion,” written in 1985 by Freitas Betto. Fidel wrote a dedication in it: “For Pope Francis, on occasion of his visit to Cuba, with the admiration and respect of the Cuban people.”
The atmosphere was “familiar and informal,” Father Lombardi said, and the conversation centered around “protecting the environment and the great problems of the contemporary world.”
Francis began a busy day in Cuba by holding Mass Sunday morning in Havana’s Revolution Square.
When Francis drove by in his open-sided Peugeot popemobile, the crowds sang and waved Cuban, Vatican and Argentine flags.
As he headed towards the square, he passed by two men and a woman who tried to seize the moment. They approached with leaflets, threw them toward the pontiff and were instantly pounced on by security guards. Once the three were detained, the guards picked up the fliers.
Francis then began Mass, which was attended by 300,000, according to the Cuban government.
“God’s holy and faithful people in Cuba is a people with a taste for parties, for friendship, for beautiful things,” Francis said. “It is a people which marches with songs of praise. It is a people which has its wounds, like every other people, yet knows how to stand up with open arms, to keep walking in hope, because it has a vocation of grandeur.”
“Today I ask you to care for this vocation of yours, to care for these gifts which God has given you, but above all I invite you to care for and be at the service of the frailty of your brothers and sisters. Do not neglect them for plans which can be seductive, but are unconcerned about the face of the person beside you. We know, we are witnesses of the incomparable power of the resurrection, which everywhere calls forth the seeds of a new world.”
Francis also gave several children their first communion.
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