2015-09-22 15:44:00

Eyewitness report from Mass at El Cobre Shrine in Cuba

(Vatican Radio) Sean Patrick Lovett, the Head of the English Programme at Vatican Radio, was at the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre on Tuesday.  He filed this report:

Listen to the report by Sean Patrick Lovett:


“Heat and humidity. I fear that my most vivid memories of following the Pope around Cuba will most likely be associated with efforts to keep cool - in every sense.

The penultimate stop on Pope Francis' Cuban itinerary was back at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. I say "back" because he'd already paid a private visit to the Shrine the previous evening. This time it was to celebrate Mass - and, unlike his predecessors who celebrated in downtown Santiago, this liturgy took place inside the Sanctuary church, a church that was filled to beyond anything its original architects who built it in 1927 could have possibly imagined. If they had they might have been a little more considerate in providing some sort of ventilation. Instead, the heat was indescribable. Fluttering, makeshift paper fans only shifted the heat around, instead of alleviating it. I envied those who were watching the event from screens outside in the square.

So it came as a shocking realization to note that these unbearable thermal conditions appeared to make no difference whatsoever to the fervent faithful crammed into this increasingly uncomfortable space. They listened with rapt attention as Pope Francis told them how "Our revolution comes about through tenderness". And when he talked about the soul of the Cuban people being "forged amid suffering and privation which could not suppress the faith", even the fans stopped fluttering.

The most moving moment of the homily, at least for me, was when he paid homage to the "grandmothers, mothers, and so many others who with tenderness and love...kept open a tiny space...through which the Holy Spirit continued to accompany the heartbeat of this people".

That was when I felt the lightest breath of fresh air literally skim over the top of my head. Relieved, I looked up...to see a dove fly through the church just above me.

Was it a side effect of getting just four hours sleep a night? Or was it really a case of the heat playing tricks with my imagination?

I don't know. You tell me.”

With Pope Francis in Cuba - I'm Seán-Patrick Lovett

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