Cuba and its patron saint await Pope Benedict
The Virgin of Charity of El Cobre is a gold-clothed, doll-like figurine which, according to Cuban legend, three fishermen found floating in a bay as Spain colonized the region with the sword and the cross. She is Cuba’s patron saint and Pope Benedict will visit her in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba on March 26 to mark the 400th anniversary of her discovery.
Benedict’s visit was agreed as the Catholic Church’s relations with Cuba’s communist-run state have improved in recent years. Some residents are conjuring up great expectations.
“We will all be at the plaza to greet Pope Benedict because his blessing will surely bring a miracle,” said hard-pressed Isabel Fernandez, who earns the equivalent of $10 per month at the local Coppelia ice cream parlor in Santiago de Cuba.
When asked what miracle she might want, the 38-year-old single mother responded, “an end to the (U.S. trade) embargo and peace between the United States and Cuba.”
Fernandez pointed out that President Raul Castro had just pardoned nearly 3,000 common prisoners ahead of the papal visit, a positive sign, she insisted, that promised even better things to come.