Pope Francis concluded his second full day in Cuba this evening with a prayer at the shrine of the Patroness of the island nation, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.
Our Lady of Charity was declared Cuba’s patroness 100 years ago by Benedict XV.
Vatican Radio noted some of the history of this image of Our Lady:
“It was not far from the city of Holguin that Christopher Columbus first landed in Cuba in 1492 and it was in the bay there that three local fishermen first saw Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, floating on the water in 1612.
“The small wooden statue of Our Lady, wearing a gold mantle and holding the Infant Jesus in her left arm, is now housed in the shrine dedicated to her in the nearby city of Santiago de Cuba.
“Over the centuries many miracles have been attributed to Our Lady who’s seen as a powerful symbol of liberation during the struggle for independence from the Spanish and for the slaves, brought in to work the copper mines in the early 16th century. Descendants of those African slaves make up over 30% of Cuba’s population, yet they remain amongst the poorest inhabitants of the country.
“Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI came to pray at the shrine during their trips to Cuba and another famous visitor, author Ernest Hemingway, left his Nobel medal for Literature there as a sign of gratitude for the warm welcome he received from the people of Cuba.
“Pope Francis will join the crowds of other pilgrims down the centuries who’ve come to pray before the statue of La Mambisa, as she’s popularly known.”
A Mass and greeting to families at the shrine on Tuesday will conclude the Pope’s time in Cuba. He is scheduled to depart for the US at 12:30.