Wenski, pilgrims return from Cuba after pope visit
Calling his trip to Cuba “a wonderful pilgrimage” and “a beautiful experience,” Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski predicted that Pope Benedict XVI’s trip would bear fruit on the island — he just did not know when.
Wenski shared his impressions Thursday, minutes after his flight from Havana touched down at Miami International Airport. About 300 pilgrims from South Florida and other parts of the country accompanied him on two Archdiocese of Miami-sponsored planes. Most of them were Cuban-Americans returning to the island after many years, or the children of those who had fled the Communist regime in earlier decades.
Luis Andre Gazitua, a Miami attorney, was among the pilgrims. His mother is Cuban, but he had never been to the island. “I’m still processing everything,” he said. “It’s a lot to take in. It was quite an experience.”
He said he was particularly impressed by the people he met, both on the street and at the papal Masses. “It was incredibly interesting to talk to them, to find out how they lived and what they thought,” he said. “We were interested in them, but they also were interested in us.”
While it was difficult to gauge the religious fervor of the Cuban people, “the value of the trip was in being there with the people and the people being with us. I think it opens the appetite to know more about each other.”
The connection to the Cuban people was a recurring theme for the pilgrims. Margarita Cuervo of Palmetto Bay was moved by the visit to El Cobre, where the statue of Our Lady of Charity, Cuba’s patron saint, is kept. She recounted how pilgrims lit candles and put requests at her feet petitioning for Cuba’s freedom. [More]