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Pope Francis urges Cubans to put people before ideology

Pope Francis delivered Sunday mass in Havana's Revolution Square and met with Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Communist revolution. The papal visit came as the U.S. and Cuba have restored diplomatic relations, thanks in part to some behind-the-scenes brokering by the Vatican. William Brangham reports.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Huge crowds turned out to see the pope in Cuba on the second full day of his trip there, a day that marked the anniversary of when he decided, as a teenager, to become a priest. He delivered a message about the importance of change.

    William Brangham has this report.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Thousands of Cubans welcomed Pope Francis this morning as he celebrated mass in the eastern Cuban city of Holguin. Festive songs mixed with traditional hymns and with the pontiff's call for tolerance and mercy.

  • POPE FRANCIS, (through translator):

    Jesus invites us to slowly overcome our preconceptions and our resistance to change in others, and even in ourselves.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Today's remarks were in keeping with Sunday's packed mass in Havana's Revolution Square. There, Francis urged Cubans to put humankind ahead of ideology, a subtle jab at the country's communist system.

  • POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter):

    Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas. We serve people.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Cuban security forces kept political dissidents away, blocking them from attending some events and detaining several others. But from all appearances, those who did hear and see the first Latin American pope were receptive.

    GILBERTO YANEZ, Havana resident (through interpreter): Pope Francis had a very deep message, a message of hope, cordiality, of helping each other, many beautiful and appealing things.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Hours later, Francis met with Fidel Castro, the retired founder of Cuba's communist revolution. Vatican officials described their 40-minute meeting as — quote — "informal and familial." The pope held separate talks with Castro's brother, the current president, Raul Castro.

    And late today, Francis traveled to Santiago to visit the shrine of Cuba's patron saint, the Virgin of Charity. This papal visit came as the U.S. and Cuba have restored diplomatic relations, thanks in part to some behind-the-scenes brokering by the Vatican.

    And, tomorrow, the pope begins his first-ever trip to the U.S. He will fly first to Washington, where he will meet with President Obama on Wednesday and address a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday.

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