SANTIAGO, Cuba (AP) — From one end of Cuba to the other, Pope Francis urged islanders to serve each other not an ideology, rediscover their Catholic faith and work to advance the historic detente with the United States, which he called a model of reconciliation for the world.
On Tuesday, in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra mountains where President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel commanded a guerrilla army that swept through Cuba and seized power more than five decades ago, the pope wrapped up a four-day visit by urging Cubans to pursue a "revolution of tenderness."
His homily at the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre during a Mass attended by Raul Castro was the latest in a series of carefully worded critiques of the island's system that he made during a visit that drew crowds of cheering Cubans.
At a Mass in Havana on Sunday, Francis' call for Cubans to work for one another and not an ideology was seen as significant in a nation where the government controls most aspects of life.
Francis carefully balanced his desire to work with Castro's government on its path of internal reform and detente with the United States with his longstanding critique of communism as a system that stifles the spirit. He has also been highly critical of a global economic order that he says marginalizes the poor and vulnerable.
Cheering and smiling Cubans greeted the pope at his stops — and a few Cuban dissidents put it a brief appearance before being dragged off by Cuban security officers.
Francis also sat down with Fidel Castro, and officials said they spent their 40 minutes together talking about issues facing humanity, including the pope's recent encyclical on the environment and the global economic system.
On Tuesday, the pontiff flew to Washington and began a five-day tour of the United States.