The following piece by Arthur C. Brooks (*) was published in The New York Times opinion page. It is a strong view on Francis's visit significance for US Catholicism.
Pope Francis on Tuesday afternoon touched down at Joint Base Andrews to begin a historic six-day, three-city visit that will have political, diplomatic and spiritual ramifications. Breaking from the usual protocol for a state visit, President Obama and Vice President Biden chose to greet the papal plane before Francis departed in a hatchback Fiat to begin his tightly scheduled, carefully choreographed and highly anticipated visit.
Pope Francis has celebrated mass in front of thousands of people in the eastern Cuban city of Holguin. During his homily, he paid tribute to the efforts and sacrifices the Roman Catholic Church has made in Cuba.
Pope Francis met Cuba's revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Sunday hours after warning Cubans to beware the dangers of ideology and the lure of selfishness as the island enters a new era of closer ties with the United States. Latin America's first pope and Castro, the region's last surviving revolutionary icon of the 20th century, discussed religion and world affairs at the home of the 89-year-old retired president for about 40 minutes.
Dissidents opposed to Cuba’s regime were arrested when they tried approaching Pope Francis in Havana on Sunday, an activist group reported. The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba identified the dissidents as Patriotic Union of Cuba members Zaqueo Baéz, Boris Reni, Aymara Nieto Muñoz and Maria Josefa Acon Sardiña, who is also a member of the Ladies in White, a peaceful protest group founded by female relatives of Cuban political prisoners.
The Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara’s daughter, Aleida Guevara refused to go to a mass Pope Francis conducted on Sunday during his historic Cuban trip, saying it would be “hypocritical” of her to be present.
Argentine president Cristina Fernández took part in Pope Francis' Sunday's mass from Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion, as she watched the pontiff in the company of her Cuban counterpart Raul Castro. Sitting next to the Cuban president, CFK followed Francis' services as he called for society to “protect the most fragile,” in a service witnessed by more than 100,000 worshippers at the Havana landmark.
Pope Francis praised Cubans' spirit in the face of adversity in a message broadcast ahead of his trip to the impoverished island. It does me a lot of good and helps me to think of your faith in the Lord, of the spirit with which you confront the difficulties of each day, the pope said in a message played on state television.
State-run newspaper Granma reported that Cuba would release 3,522 prisoners three days ahead of the September 19-22 visit by Pope Francis. However Cuban officials, who officially deny that the country has political prisoners, said they would not release inmates convict of crimes against state security.
Argentine president Cristina Fernández has formally accepted an invitation by her Cuban counterpart Raul Castro to attend a mass Pope Francis will deliver in the Plaza de La Revolucion in Havana on September 20.