Pope Francis called Cubans to a "revolution of tenderness" as he celebrated Mass Sept. 22 in the Minor Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.
Francis called on people to turn their eyes toward Jesus, finding him even "in our brothers and sisters, especially those who feel excluded or abandoned."
Havana, Cuba -- Pope Francis pointedly told Cubans in a homily Sunday that "service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people."
Pope Francis' visit to Cuba and the U.S. comes as people and politicians in both countries increasingly support ending an economic embargo that has lasted for more than five decades.
Catholicism is flourishing again in the former Spanish colony, gradually expanding its role and influence after suffering repression for decades following Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
Ever since Pope Francis' visit to Cuba was announced, Cuban church officials have billed him as the "missionary of mercy."
And it's an important mission, some Cubans say, so that the country and its people -- living in and outside of Cuba -- can move forward. The pope's message of mercy is exactly what Cuba needs, some say.
"Cuba needs mercy because Cubans have been divided even inside Cuba, and Cubans have been divided even outside Cuba," said Eduardo Azcarate, born in Havana but who now lives in Falls Church, Va.
Pope Francis will visit Cuba and the United States during a Sept. 19-27 visit. Get the full schedule here.
After spending close to an hour with Pope Francis, Cuban President Raul Castro told reporters he is so impressed by what the pope does and says that he might start praying and could even return to the church.
"I had a very agreeable meeting this morning with Pope Francis. He is a Jesuit, as you well know. I am, too, in a certain sense because I was always in Jesuit schools," Castro told reporters Sunday.
The Peace Pulpit: "We are the presence of Jesus in the midst of the world ... That calls us to change our lives, to follow the way of Jesus."
An hourlong meeting Saturday between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro marked the first such personal encounter between the leaders of the two neighboring countries since 1958.
The session held during the Summit on the Americas, in which Cuba participated for the first time, was the most visible step toward ending a half century of strained relations dating back to the Cuban revolution.