South Florida

While pope is in Cuba, South Floridians gather at St. Martha’s Catholic Church

Pope Francis was Havana Sunday to deliver his historic Mass to the Cuban people in a show of peace and unity as the country renews ties with the U.S. after more than five decades.

Many South Floridians traveled with him to Cuba. But for those who stayed behind, they gathered at St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Miami Shores, where the Archdiocese of Miami is based.

Sue Longman, a parishioner of St. Martha's, said Pope Francis' Mass in Cuba is a great thing.

She said the Pope's visit will draw international attention and respect in a way that no world leader could.

"He doesn't benefit from it at all," she said. "He's just there to spread love and peace."

More than a 100,000 people lined the streets of Havana on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 19, 2015, to welcome Pope Francis to the island.

Carlota Catrillom, another parishioner, agrees. As part of the universal Catholic Church, she said the Pope's role is to spread the word of God to the world.

"He's not only doing the message today, he's doing the message to the whole world," she said.

Catrillom, 64, said that normalized relations between Cuba and America will lead to a larger, more inclusive Catholic faith.

"It's only one Church, and Cuba is a part of that Church," she said.

But not all parishioners viewed the Pope's visit as a positive. Ibo Richards, 42, said the timing of the visit makes him nervous. He said he distrusts Cuba and the communist government.

He said he thinks the "rogue government" of Cuba set up the Pope's visit with nefarious intent.

"We don't get along with these people," he said. "Cuba is a dangerous place for Cubans and Americans."

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