Associated Press Wednesday March 28, 2012 7:11 AM
HAVANA — Pope Benedict XVI prayed for freedom and renewal "for the
greater good of all Cubans" before the nation's patron saint yesterday,
but the island's communist leaders quickly rejected the Roman Catholic
leader's appeal for political change after five decades of one-party rule.
The exchange came hours ahead of a private meeting with President Raul
Castro on the pontiff's second day on the island. Brief video feeds
showed Castro greeting Benedict at the Presidential Palace and then
later seeing him off.
There was no visit to see Fidel Castro, although a Vatican spokesman
would not rule out the possibility of a meeting before the pope is to
depart this afternoon.
During a quiet moment at the shrine of the Virgin of Charity, Benedict
also prayed for more Cubans to embrace the faith in a country that is
the least Catholic in Latin America. Although most Cubans are nominally
Catholic, fewer than 10 percent practice the faith.