Pope Francis isn’t the first pontiff to visit Cuba; he was preceded by Pope John Paul II in 1998 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, but as the first pope from Latin America, he drew a diverse crowd representing a broad swath of Latin America.
Present at Sunday’s Mass in Havana, the pope’s first official public appearance after arriving on the island on Saturday, were groups from Mexico, El Salvador, Panama, Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala, among others.
“He speaks our language—literally,” said Paty Ruiz, of the state of Jalisco, Mexico.
Ruiz and her friend Meche Villalobos arrived in Cuba – their first time here – without being aware of the papal visit, but were thrilled when a friend from home texted them about the pontiff’s impending arrival. “We were so emotional!” Ruiz said.
“Of course we had to come to the Mass! We arrived in the Plaza de la Revolución at 5 a.m. this morning.”
Here’s a selection of photos from the Mass, which was expected to draw 40,000. An official number has not yet been made available.
A wider Latin American audience greeted Pope Francis even before his arrival to Cuba, leaving messages for him on this communal message board at Havana’s Sacred Heart Church. This message, left by someone from a family from Mexico, thanks Pope Francis for “teaching us to continue the struggle for peace in the world.”
A priest from Costa Rica contemplated Pope Francis’s homily after the conclusion of the papal mass in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución.
For those not familiar with the Chilean flag, this woman spelled things out.
A group of nuns and members of the Church hold the Mexican flag and sing “Cielito Lindo” after the papal Mass.
Cuba’s Caribbean neighbor, Puerto Rico, brought a sizeable contingent to the papal Mass.
Although it was announced that no banners or flags should be held aloft during the Mass, the warning didn’t stop a small group of attendees who protested the development of the canal in Nicaragua. Cuban security forces soon seized the banner.
Argentina, of course, was well-represented in the crowd, with many in attendance in Cuba specifically with the hope of catching a glimpse of Pope Francis.