Pope Leaves Havana Residence To Greet Guests

Backdropped by sign showing, from left, Fidel Castro, Jose Marti, Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez, people watch Pope Francis pass by in his popemobile from the airport to Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. The sign reads in Spanish "Example of true brotherhood." Pope Francis began his 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States, embarking on his first trip to the onetime Cold War foes after helping to nudge forward their historic rapprochement. (Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate Via AP)

Backdropped by sign showing, from left, Fidel Castro, Jose Marti, Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez, people watch Pope Francis pass by in his popemobile from the airport to Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. The sign reads in Spanish “Example of true brotherhood.” Pope Francis began his 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States, embarking on his first trip to the onetime Cold War foes after helping to nudge forward their historic rapprochement. (Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate Via AP)

HAVANA — The latest developments in Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba and the United States. All times local:

8:15 p.m.

Pope Francis has left the Vatican’s embassy to greet some guests who were allowed to get close for a visit with the pontiff on his first night in Havana.

About 30 to 40 pre-selected guests were allowed to approach the Vatican’s nunciature in the upscale Miramar neighborhood of the Cuban capital. Francis came outside to greet them after dinner.

The Vatican estimates 100,000 people lined Francis’ motorcade route into town from the airport.

7:20 p.m.

Pope Francis has entered the residence of the papal ambassador, waving to cheering Cubans and tourists gathered outside. The crowds have dispersed, leaving only a heavy police presence.

With this, the pope’s public appearances for the day appear to have ended, though in past visits to other countries Francis has broken with protocol and left his residence to greet people.

7:10 p.m.

The Vatican spokesman says it’s possible that Pope Francis will meet with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, though this has not been confirmed.

Monsignor Federico Lombardi tells journalists, “It is possible that this happens.”

Lombardi says that if the meeting does occur, it could be on Sunday in Havana.

6:50 p.m.

Pope Francis offered a taste of his homeland to journalists en route to Havana.

Flight attendants passed around meat-filled empanadas to the 75 reporters traveling on the papal plane, saying they were a special gift of the pope from the front of the aircraft.

The pope got a few gifts in return, including an Emmy award. Univision correspondent Rogelio Mora-Tagle gave the pope an official copy of the winged statue that the Spanish-language broadcaster won in 2014 for its breaking news coverage of the 2013 conclave that elected Francis as pope.

“I told him it’s not just an award, it’s the work of all my colleagues,” Mora-Tagle said.

6:25 p.m.

Before leaving for Cuba, Pope Francis paid a visit to the newest residents of Vatican City: a refugee Syrian family taken in by the Vatican in a demonstration of the pontiff’s call for the world to open its doors to refugees and people seeking better lives for themselves.

Francis says he was emotional meeting the family of four, who arrived in Italy from Damascus on the same Sunday that the pope issued an appeal for each parish and religious order around the globe to take in a refugee family and provide for them. The Vatican is taking in two: the Syrian family of Greek Melkite Catholics and another family that hasn’t yet been identified.

During his flight to Havana, Francis told of meeting with the Syrian family Saturday morning as he headed out of the Vatican. In his words, “You could see the pain in their faces.”

He called again for “bridges of peace” to prevail to end wars and help stem the tide of migrants.

Francis is expected to make immigration one of the major themes of his Sept. 19-28 trip, particularly on the U.S. leg that begins Tuesday.

6:15 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived at the Vatican envoy’s residence in Havana to a euphoric welcome following a trip from the city’s international airport in the popemobile.

“Here he comes! Here he comes!” shouted hundreds of people waiting outside the residence as Francis approached.

On his arrival, people shouted: “Francis! Brother, now you are a Cuban!”

After his official reception at the airport, the pope has no more public appearances scheduled for Saturday, though in past visits to other countries Francis has broken with protocol and left the residence to greet people.

5:55 p.m.

The United States’ U.N. ambassador has tweeted criticism of Cuban authorities over reported detentions in advance of Pope Francis’ visit to Havana.

Ambassador Samantha Power’s tweet says human rights activists “and even homeless reportedly detained before (at)Pontifex visit; disappointing business as usual for (hash)Cuban govt.”

Opposition groups in recent days have been reporting increased detentions of dissidents. Cuba’s government, as is normal, has not commented on the claims.

5:21 p.m.

Francis is traveling through the streets of Havana, waving to excited crowds from the latest version of the iconic popemobile.

Thousands of Cubans are along the route from the Jose Marti International Airport to the home of the Vatican’s ambassador to Cuba, where the pontiff is to spend the night.

Many are waving Cuban and Vatican flags. Near the residence, a group of nuns is singing the Lord’s Prayer to the rhythm of traditional Cuban “son” music. One woman holds a sign that reads: “Francis, you bring us hope.”

There’s also a near-continuous line of security agents forming a human barricade.

4:50 p.m.

Pope Francis has been given a red-carpet welcome in Havana complete with a military honor guard and a handshake from a dark-suited Raul Castro.

Smiling children handed him flowers, and a band played the Cuban national anthem before Castro and then the pope took turns speaking.

Island church leaders were also on hand to greet the pontiff.

4:40 p.m.

Pope Francis is hailing detente between the United States and Cuba as a model of reconciliation. He urges Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro to continue working to build normal ties as the pontiff begins a 10-day tour of the former Cold War foes.

Francis served as mediator for the resumption of diplomatic relations this year. He says, “I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities.”

Francis calls the negotiations that led to the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington “an example of reconciliation for the entire world.”

At an airport arrival ceremony headed by President Raul Castro, Francis says he wants his greeting “to embrace especially all those who, for various reasons, I will not be able to meet” – a possible nod to political dissidents as well as average Cubans.

4:30 p.m.

Cuban President Raul Castro is praising Pope Francis’ critiques of the global economic system, saying it has “globalized capital and turned money into its idol.”

In a lengthy speech welcoming the pope at Havana’s international airport, Castro says Cuba’s communist government has “founded an equitable society with social justice.” He thanks the pope for mediating negotiations on detente between the United States and Cuba.

Castro is also calling for the end of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

3:51 p.m.

Pope Francis has landed in Havana, launching a historic 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States after serving as secret mediator of the historic rapprochement between the former Cold War foes.

Cuban President Raul Castro is at the airport to welcome the pontiff, who will be offering a show of solidarity with Cubans and delivering a message in the United States that Hispanics are the bedrock of the American church.

2:45 p.m.

Hundreds of people are beginning to gather along the route where Pope Francis will travel when he arrives in Cuba.

They include five Salvadoran citizens waiting on a street closed to traffic in a leafy neighborhood of western Havana, where Francis is to overnight at the papal ambassador’s residence.

Sandra del Moreno traveled from San Salvador with four friends and was clutching the Central American nation’s flag.

The 51-year-old woman said “We love this pope, although we would have liked it if he had visited El Salvador.”

A block away three kids were playing with a ball made from rags.

Ten-year-old Kevin Duvergel and 9-year-old Marlos Duenas exclaimed in unison: “Pope Francis is going to pass by!”

1:55 p.m.

Not everyone in Havana is thrilled at being asked to turn out for the pope.

State-employed medical office worker Rafael Rivero says he’s not sure if he will come watch Francis’ motorcade, and many co-workers feel the same way.

He says, “Sure, go, if you’re a practicing Catholic but it shouldn’t be an obligation on a Saturday afternoon. It’s our day off.”

Cuban officials are offering a day’s pay, snacks and transportation to encourage state workers to line the pontiff’s route from the airport to the Papal Ambassador’s home. University students also have been recruited.

12:20 p.m.

Hundreds of people are planning to take buses or trains across long, winding route through Cuba’s rural heartland to see Pope Francis appear in Havana to the west or Holguin and Santiago to the east.

Fewer than a third of Cubans identify as Catholic, but rural Cubans are speaking warmly of the pope’s role in mediating detente between the U.S. and Cuba.

Many say they want the pope to pressure the U.S. to lift the trade embargo on Cuba, which many Cubans blame for economic woes that are more dire in the countryside than in the more connected cities.

In the sugarcane-farming town of Taguasco, Marisela Hernandez says she things the papal visit “is going to bring us good things.” The 52-year-old worker in a glasses store says people in the U.S. “need to know that the embargo is hurting our economy.”

Forty-three-year-old Farmworker Osmel Morffi hung a poster of the pope in a roadside shrine to the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint.

He says, “We need the pope to bring better relations between the U.S. and Cuba.” And he adds, “We’ve been in this conflict for so many years.”

10:20 a.m.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is in the Cuban capital on an official visit that coincides with a trip by Pope Francis.

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry says Fernandez arrived Saturday morning and is scheduled to meet with President Raul Castro.

Fernandez plans to attend a Mass celebrated by Francis on Sunday at Havana’s Revolution Square.

She has met several times with Francis, who was archbishop of Buenos Aires before he became pontiff in 2013.

10:15 a.m.

The Cuban government has launched a citywide effort to bring crowds into the streets of Havana. It’s offering a day’s pay, snacks and transportation to state workers who gather along the pope’s route from the airport to his residence at the Papal Ambassador’s home. University students also have been recruited to come out for the pope.

Participants almost universally praise the pope’s role in mediating detente between the United States and Cuba, saying they hope his visit to the two countries will accelerate the process of normalization.

Fifty-one-year-old accountant Magaly Delgado says she’ll turn out. In her words, “I’m going because I’m a believer and this pope interests me a lot because of all the change that he’s making.”

Seventy-one-year old retiree Diego Carrera says “This visit is like a breath of hope blowing over Cuba.” He says that’s because of the role that the pope played in the reestablishment of relations with the U.S.

4:50 a.m.

Pope Francis has departed for Cuba, starting a 10-day pilgrimage that will also take him to the United States.

The special Alitalia flight flying the pope and his entourage took off from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport shortly after 10:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) Saturday. Following Cuba, Francis will visit three U.S. cities: Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.

Sep 19, 8:16 PM EDTAP

 
 

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