Preparations Underway for Papal Mass in Havana

The iconic Plaza de la Revolucion is getting ready to host the open-air Mass that Pope Benedict XVI will officiate in the Cuban capital on March 28 to wind up his visit to the Communist-ruled island, Efe confirmed Monday.

Several days ago workers began raising the structure of the main platform and stairway in front of the monument to the hero of Cuban independence, Jose Marti, architect Luis Perez Coello told Efe.

The platform being erected by the Catholic Archdiocese of Havana is designed to hold the approximately 200 people who will accompany the pontiff during the religious service in the plaza, which thousands of the faithful are expected to attend.

Perez Coello said that the work is being done as scheduled and will be ready “on time.”

With a capacity for 1 million people, the Plaza de la Revolucion is famous for the giant metal image of the guerrilla Ernesto “Che” Guevara, installed on a wall of the Interior Ministry, and another of the revolutionary Camilo Cienfuegos that was installed on another facade in 2009 on the 50th anniversary of his death.

The plaza has been the scene of the principal rallies, parades and ceremonies in honor of the Cuban Revolution as well as for such events as May Day.

The pope will arrive March 29 in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where he will be officially received by President Raul Castro and will say his first outdoor Mass in that city’s main square.

He will also visit the Sanctuary of El Cobre, where the statue of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba, is kept, and for which celebrations are being held this year on commemorating the 400th anniversary of the year it was found.

The pope goes March 27 to Havana, where he will meet with President Castro and the Catholic bishops, and the next day he will conclude his visit to Cuba after Mass in the plaza.

The 84-year-old Benedict XVI’s trip will be the second of a pontiff to the island, which in 1998 received John Paul II on a visit considered “historic” that also concluded with a Mass en la Plaza de la Revolucion.

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