Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski will be making a pilgrimage to Cuba for Pope Benedict XVI's trip to the island scheduled for late March, the Archdiocese said in a statement Thursday.
Benedict's trip, scheduled for March 26-28, will be the first by a pope since John Paul II's visit in 1998. It comes as Cuban Catholics celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of the Virgin of Charity, patroness of Cuba.
Wenski will assist with the pope's two planned Masses, and also say Mass in Havana's cathedral on March 27 for a group traveling from Miami. The Archdiocese is taking at least one chartered plane from Miami for Benedict's visit, and will be offering two travel excursions in Cuba – one to Santiago and Havana, and one just to Havana.
Wenski said Thursday that he has received some heat from the community about his trip, "but the overwhelming reactions I've received so far have been very positive."
The pope's schedule will include a reception by Cuban President Raul Castro and the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba on the first day. On March 27, Benedict will make a private visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in El Cobre, followed by a meeting with Havana's archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, at the Jose Marti Airport in Havana.
He will end the day with an official meeting with Castro and a meeting with the Catholic Bishops of Cuba in the Nunciature.
On his final day in Cuba, Benedict will preside over a Mass in Havana's Jose Marti Revolution Square followed by an official farewell ceremony.
Wenski, 60, was installed as Miami’s archbishop in June 2010, and has made several trips to Cuba in recent years, including a visit just last month. He also assisted John Paul II when he held a papal mass in Cuba in 1998.
Details and prices should be available next week for the Archdiocese's excursions; airfare and food will be included in the cost. The arrangements are being handled by a travel agency authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department. For more information, email email@example.com.