ABC11 in Cuba: Thousands attend Pope's spiritual mass

HAVANA (WTVD) -- Pope Francis met with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Sunday afternoon. They exchanged gifts and spent about a half-hour together.

Earlier in the day, the pope took the stage in the plaza, where Castro gave so many speeches to the Cuban people over the years. The papal mass was a captivating experience for American Catholics on this pilgrimage to Cuba.



Tens of thousands of people packed Havana's Revolution Plaza on a spiritual journey, celebrating mass with Pope Francis.

The pope focused on the theme of the service: encouraging the crowd to help people in need.

"Serving others chiefly means caring for their vulnerability. Caring for the vulnerable of our families, our society, our people," Pope Francis said, speaking to the crowd in Spanish.

Tanya Thomas, a Duke University student studying in Havana, was deeply moved.

"I just thought it was great," Thomas said. "It was a unifying experience."

ABC11 anchor Steve Daniels is on special assignment, covering the Pope's visit to the Americas.



"He really pushed the people here today to serve the most vulnerable," Steve observed when talked to Thomas.

"I heard that, I loved it," Thomas responded. "That was the part that I was like 'this is why so many people adore Pope Francis.'"

The heat of the day during the open air mass took its toll on some people, but not one group from Boston.

"It was amazing. You can feel the spirituality. The heat, I don't even feel it! And I'm usually the one that the heat kills," said Jim Barrett from Boston.

"You felt the spirit during the mass. I don't speak the language, but you could follow along and know what was going on, and it just felt like there was a spirit over you," explained Maryellen Barrett.

It was also a day to remember for a children's choir from Havana - performing for a global television audience.

"Estuviste nerviosa antes de la misa? Were you nervous before the mass?" Steve asked.

Steve translated the girl's response, saying they were a little bit nervous and it was such a special experience to see the pope.

Thousands of faithful, from across the Americas, are taking away the pope's message of serving others, and memories of a lifetime.

"It's like going to church on a Sunday morning, except it's the pope, in Cuba, and it's the Plaza de la Revolucion," Thomas said.

Monday morning, the pope flies to central Cuba where he'll celebrate mass in the city of Holguin.

On Tuesday he flies to Washington to begin his five day trip to the United States.

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