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Pope Benedict XVI Arrives in Cuba Hoping to Renew Faith

The Pope lands in Santiago de Cuba after a previous statement claiming Cuba's Marxist government is out of touch with reality.

Pope Benedict XVI was welcomed by Cuban President Raul Castro Monday afternoon just days after declaring the island's Marxist system was out-of-date.

Benedict’s trip to Cuba aims to renew the faith in Latin America's least Catholic country.

On his two-country-tour, the Pope started in Mexico with the aim to bring a message of hope particularly to young Mexicans confronting the country's violent drug war.

Mexico greeted Benedict with throngs of people, posters, and banners. He was even serenaded by a mariachi band where he was staying. However, the tone in Cuba was much more politically pronounced.

Upon his arrival, many of the Cuban citizens and Cuban-Americans, some of whom came back to their homeland just for the Pope’s visit, were kept away from a tightly controlled arrival ceremony.

Many believe it is inevitable that Benedict's three-day stay in Cuba will spark controversy given Cuba's history with religion.

During Fidel Castro's takeover in 1959, priests were expelled and religious schools were closed. Tensions eased in 1990 when the government removed references to atheism in the constitution and let believers join the Communist party.

Yet, there are still some unresolved issues that will set the mood for the Pope's visit. Churches still have virtually no access to state-run radio or television and there are only 361 priests, many of whom are non-Cubans, for the island's population of 11.2 million.

Only about 10 percent of the people are still practicing Catholics.

During the last visit from Pope John Paul II in 1998, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro shed his trademark olive-green clothing for a suit and tie to greet the Pope at the airport.

For this Monday's visit, Fidel's presidential replacement, Raul Castro, will be handling all the official protocol.

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit is also timely to the 400th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady Charity, the patron Saint of Cuba.

Benedict is set to fly to the capital of Cuba, Havana, on Tuesday and then celebrate mass in Havana's Revolution Plaza on Wednesday.

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