The Church in Cuba has undertaken a movement of spiritual and missionary preparation for Pope Francis' arrival tomorrow, which has led to hope for a rekindling of faith, according to one prominent priest. Pope Francis will be in Cuba Sept. 19-22, visiting the cities of Havana, Holguin, and Santiago de Cuba, saying Mass in each of them. In addition, he will meet with officials of the government and the Communist party, as well asl clergy and youth, and visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. Catholics on the island hope that the Pope's visit will bring “greater communication and mercy among Cubans, and reconciliation,” said Father Orlando Montes de Oca, executive secretary of the Cuban bishops' priests committee. Speaking to CNA the priest, who is a pastor in Maizil in the country's south, indicated, “we’re hoping he’ll rekindle the faith of the Cuban people, as well as their hope” and “make the Cuban people feel and experience more of God’s predilection for this land.” He noted that the Church in Cuba, taking into account the proximity of the Year of Mercy and the theme of the Pope’s visit as a “Missionary of Mercy,” invited the faithful to prepare themselves “by living out with greater intensity the works of mercy,” as well as through a novena to Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba, whose feast day was Sept. 8. “And so there’s been a spiritual preparation, a missionary preparation,” Fr. Montes de Oca said, referring to the youth missions taking place in Havana city parks and the house-to-house visits made by the children in a missionary children program. “It’s been a preparation movement in itself to receive Pope Francis and to welcome the message he’s going to bring to the Cuban people as a Missionary of Mercy,” he said. Fr. Montes de Oca indicated that for the Mass Pope Francis will say in Revolution Square on Sunday, estimates suggest attendance will be around 200,000, and for the Mass in Holguín the next day, around 150,000. During the Mass in Havana, Pope Francis will give, for the first time on one of his trips abroad, First Communion to five children; an event that “for the Church in Cuba is a sign of hope.” “The children are the present and the future of the Church and our country,” the priest noted. He said that by his actions, the Pope “is telling the Cuban people bring your children to the Church, your children need to receive Jesus in Communion.” He said “on the other hand it’s also an initiation into the life of faith in these children and as well a sign of a new stage in the missionary life of the Church in Cuba. Without a doubt it represents hope.”
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