Cuba pilgrimage ends with call for reconciliation

December 31, 2011 06:34

HAVANA - Roman Catholic Church leaders called for reconciliation among Cubans and urged further economic reform at an outdoor mass in Cuba on Friday marking the end of a national pilgrimage of a statue of the island's patron saint.

About 3,000 people gathered along Havana Bay for the ceremony led by Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega paying tribute to the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, a Catholic icon that has toured the communist-ruled country for the past 16 months in the first such religious display permitted since the 1950s.

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit Cuba in the spring to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue, said to have been found floating in a bay by three fishermen in eastern Cuba.

Ortega said millions of Cubans had prayed before the small, ornate statue, which was taken around the country in a specially outfitted Toyota pickup truck that looked a little like the Popemobile used when the pope tours.

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