Cuba rejects Pope's plea for political 'renewal' during visit
A PASSIONATE appeal by Pope Benedict XVI for "renewal" and "a better society", were roundly rejected by the Cuban government yesterday.
Last night a top Cuban official said there were no prospects for political change on the communist-run island.
Marino Murillo, Cuba's economic czar and a vice president on President Raul Castro's council of ministers, said that while the country was shaking up its economy, "in Cuba there will not be political reform".
Mr Murillo's comments were in response to remarks by the visiting Pope earlier in the day, when he made a highly symbolic prayer visit to the shrine of the nation's patron saint.
"I have entrusted to the mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans," the 84-year-old pontiff said at the sanctuary in the small town of El Cobre.
"I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty."
On the second day of his Cuban tour, the Pope knelt silently before the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre for several minutes, his eyes open and hands clasped.
While most Cubans are nominally Catholic, fewer than 10pc practise the faith.
After visiting the shrine, Pope Benedict planned to fly to Havana to meet with Raul Castro.
Meanwhile, a man who yelled "Down with the revolution! Down with the dictatorship!" before a Mass on Monday in the nearby city of Santiago was hustled away by security agents.
Video of the incident showed him being slapped by another man wearing the uniform of a first-aid worker, before security agents separated them.