In his first visit to the country, Pope Benedict XVI asked Cubans to fight for an "open, renewed" society. 

In his speech, the Pope urged for a reconciliation in which Cuba "now looks to the future" while strongly criticizing the savage capitalism, "that has left man defenseless against certain power."

Fourteen years after the historic visit of Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI set foot for the first time Monday on the island, one of the last bastions of communism, where he was welcomed in Santiago at the foot of the Sierra Maestra mountains, the storied site of the revolution led by Fidel Castro and his brother, President Raul Castro.

According to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, close to 200,000 Cubans, including many who arrived from abroad, gave ‘His Holiness’ the warmest of greetings in Santiago's Antonio Maceo Plaza where they attended a Mass commemorating the 400th anniversary of the finding of the statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba.

Papal Visit to Latin America

It was here that the pontiff urged the Cuban people to build an open society.

"Under the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, I wish to call on you to revitalize your faith so you may live in Christ and for Christ, and that you fight with the weapons of peace, pardon and understanding to build an open, renewed society, a better society more worthy of man and that better reflects the goodness of God," the pope said.

In the presence of Raul Castro, Benedict XVI also defended the dignity of humankind and said that God "has charged the family, founded in matrimony, the mission most high of being the fundamental cell of society and the true home of the church."

On the first day of his visit, Benedict XVI covered every subject of the political, economic and social conditions of Cuba In some very measured speeches and again commented on the church's readiness to collaborate in the construction of a just and brotherly society.

Cuban-Americans Flock to Cuba for Pope’s Visit

"I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity to strengthen my brothers in faith and encourage hope. I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate wishes of all Cubans wherever they are, their joys and suffering, their worries and most noble desires," the pope said.

Raul Castro, for his part, spoke of the "close relations" between the Holy See and Cuba, adding that they have always been based on mutual respect.

Castro criticized the U.S. blockade of the island and said that corruption in politics and the lack of true democracy are the evils of our time.

Benedict XVI travels Tuesday to Havana, where he will again meet with Raul Castro and might possibly see Fidel Castro as well.

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