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Saturday, January 24, 1998 Published at 20:49 GMT



World: Americas

Pope pleads for human rights in Cuba
image: [ Pope John Paul II crowning the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba's patron saint ]
Pope John Paul II crowning the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba's patron saint

Pope John Paul II has told more than 200,000 Cubans at a Mass in Cuba that true freedom must include the recognition of human rights and social justice.

People in the front rows got up and shouted their applause during the speech in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, attended by the Defence Minister, Fidel Castro's brother Raul.


[ image: 200,000 Cubans heard the Pope's address]
200,000 Cubans heard the Pope's address
Earlier the crowd chanted: "John Paul, our brother, now you are a Cuban."

The Pope also stressed the need for dialogue and reconciliation, saying lay Catholics had the right to take part in public debate.

Earlier, the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Pedro Meurice, launched a strong attack on Cuba's communist authorities, accusing the state of paternalism.


BBC Cuba correspondent Tom Gibb reports from the mass (1' 09")
Archbishop Meurice said the church prospered in the 1950s, an era the government regards as a dark period in Cuba's history, when Fidel Castro was fighting the dictator Batista.

The archbishop also said Cubans living in exile and those on the island were one nation.

The Pope was speaking during a four-hour Mass to crown the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba's patron saint.

He is next due to celebrate his final Mass in Cuba in front of Fidel Castro in Havana.
 





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