Francis is traveling through the streets of Havana, waving to excited crowds from the latest version of the iconic popemobile.
Many are waving Cuban and Vatican flags. Near the residence, a group of nuns is singing the Lord’s Prayer to the rhythm of traditional Cuban “son” music. One woman holds a sign that reads: “Francis, you bring us hope.”
There’s also a near-continuous line of security agents forming a human barricade.
Pope Francis has been given a red-carpet welcome in Havana complete with a military honor guard and a handshake from a dark-suited Raul Castro.
Smiling children handed him flowers, and a band played the Cuban national anthem before Castro and then the pope took turns speaking.
Island church leaders were also on hand to greet the pontiff.
Pope Francis is hailing detente between the United States and Cuba as a model of reconciliation. He urges Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro to continue working to build normal ties as the pontiff begins a 10-day tour of the former Cold War foes.
Francis served as mediator for the resumption of diplomatic relations this year. He says, “I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities.”
Francis calls the negotiations that led to the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington “an example of reconciliation for the entire world.”
At an airport arrival ceremony headed by President Raul Castro, Francis says he wants his greeting “to embrace especially all those who, for various reasons, I will not be able to meet” — a possible nod to political dissidents as well as average Cubans.
Cuban President Raul Castro is praising Pope Francis’ critiques of the global economic system, saying it has “globalized capital and turned money into its idol.”
In a lengthy speech welcoming the pope at Havana’s international airport, Castro says Cuba’s communist government has “founded an equitable society with social justice.” He thanks the pope for mediating negotiations on detente between the United States and Cuba.
Castro is also calling for the end of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
Pope Francis has landed in Havana, launching a historic 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States after serving as secret mediator of the historic rapprochement between the former Cold War foes.
Cuban President Raul Castro is at the airport to welcome the pontiff, who will be offering a show of solidarity with Cubans and delivering a message in the United States that Hispanics are the bedrock of the American church.
Hundreds of people are beginning to gather along the route where Pope Francis will travel when he arrives in Cuba.
They include five Salvadoran citizens waiting on a street closed to traffic in a leafy neighborhood of western Havana, where Francis is to overnight at the papal ambassador’s residence.
Sandra del Moreno traveled from San Salvador with four friends and was clutching the Central American nation’s flag.
The 51-year-old woman said “We love this pope, although we would have liked it if he had visited El Salvador.”
A block away three kids were playing with a ball made from rags.
Ten-year-old Kevin Duvergel and 9-year-old Marlos Duenas exclaimed in unison: “Pope Francis is going to pass by!”
Not everyone in Havana is thrilled at being asked to turn out for the pope.
State-employed medical office worker Rafael Rivero says he’s not sure if he will come watch Francis’ motorcade, and many co-workers feel the same way.