The pope prays in front of the statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.The pope prays in front of the statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

EL COBRE, CUBA – For 400 years, Cubans have brought their sorrows and joys before the statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

When Pope Benedict visited the shrine on March 27, he echoed their prayers for a future marked by less poverty and greater freedom.

“I have entrusted to the mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans,” he said.

At the shrine, he lit a candle and stood in silent prayer for several minutes before the statue.

Leaving the shrine, the pope stood on the steps and told the crowd outside that he prayed “for the needs of all who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, for those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty”.

He said he prayed for Cuba’s young people that “they may be authentic friends of Christ and not succumb to things which bring sadness in their wake”.

He also prayed for families who live their faith and transmit it to their children and, especially, for the families “who offer their homes as mission centres for the celebration of Mass” in a country where the government restricts the building of new churches and where there is a severe shortage of priests. n CNS

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