Pope Francis builds momentum ahead of U.S. visit

Catholic leader strikes right chord with most Cubans as he begins last day in the country, with role in U.S.-Cuban reboot in spotlight

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Pope Francis spends his third day Monday in Cuba, where he’s bringing his message to the people and the country’s longtime leader.

The pope travels to the city of Holguín Monday morning to celebrate mass. He will then go to Santiago to visit a shrine to the country’s patron saint.

With one more day to go, Pope Francis is on a roll. The hopes, if not expectations f0r his visit were high, and CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey says he seems to be hitting all the right notes.

“Service is never ideological,” he said, as President Raul Castro and senior members of his communist government looked on. “We do not serve ideas, we serve people,” added the pontiff.

Among the faithful there was overwhelming gratitude for the pope’s role in the new relationship between Cuba and the U.S.

“We were waiting for this moment,” Becky Sorosano said. “Reconciliation, lifting of the blockade and the relationship with whole world will be peace.”

Church policy seems to be an effort to avoid controversy and win more religious freedom by capitalizing on goodwill from the Vatican’s role in softening relations between Havana and Washington. But several dissidents were reported detained in advance of his visit, and not everyone in Cuba approves of the Vatican’s non-confrontational approach.

That wasn’t evident in the crowd that turned up for Mass, however.

The pope and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro met for half an hour. Officially, they discussed “protecting the environment and the great problems of the contemporary world.”

In one of his favorite type of encounters, Francis told a gathering of youths that they had no less hope than young people anywhere in the world.

With the pope arriving in the U.S. on Tuesday, a CBS News/New York Times poll finds 79 percent of American Catholics approve of his direction for the church. Only nine percent disapprove.

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