(Vatican Radio) The head of the English Programme Seán-Patrick Lovett is currently travelling with Francis on his 10th Apostolic journey abroad. A journey which has taken the Pope to Cuba where he landed in the nation's capital Havana on the 19th of September and from where he departs on the evening of the 22nd of September for the United States. Before his departure Seán shared with us his impressions of the first leg of thistrip.
Listen to Seán-Patrick Lovett's final report from Cuba:
As the Pope leaves Cuba for the U.S. leg of this (how shall I describe it?) "exciting" (?), "challenging" (!), pilgrimage - a couple of images remain emblazoned on my strained, sleepless and over-heated psyche.
One of them is that of the families gathered in the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba: young and old, adolescents and infants - a microcosm of society and a vibrant reminder of where we come from, who we are...and what we should be.
The other is of contrasting messages that I have seen scrawled or stenciled on walls and buildings, in the streets and squares we've whizzed through in the papal motorcade over the past three days.
It's clear (to me at least) that Cuban authorities are struggling to keep the cult of the Revolution alive. Everywhere you look you see mementos and monuments of that tumultous moment in their history. They take the form of outrageously oppressive equestrian statues, or ostentatious bronze busts of revolutionary heroes that glare back at you with an uncompromising gaze, or of rhetorical slogans that blaze down from public buildings - while Che and Fidel constantly remind you that without them Cuba would not be what it is today.
The contrast comes with the posters and banners of Pope Francis that decorate the same streets and buildings: his benign and smiling face, the peace and welcome contained (implicitly and explicitly) in his "revolutionary" message, is so strikingly different from the popular revolutionary heroes that surround him - you can't help but notice it.
I think that Cubans have noticed it too.
I saw the same expressions reflected on the faces of the families in the Cathedral today - especially the younger ones...those for whom the future is far more important than the past.
With the Pope in Cuba - and on my way to the United States - I'm Seán-Patrick Lovett
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