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Belen Jesuit Students Pray For Pope's Visit To Cuba

Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba and the United States is being closely watched by students at a school that once moved from Cuba to South Florida.

Hundreds of Belen Jesuit Preparatory students gathered before classes Friday morning to send prayers to Pope Francis before his arrival in Cuba.

The first Latin American pope will celebrate Mass in three Cuban cities before continuing on to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.

Two students wrote prayers for the assembly. Junior Pedro Garcia asked that the Cuban government expand freedom of speech and other human rights.

“Let us pray that the Holy Father’s visit to the island nation becomes a source of hope for a people who have been suffering way too long,” Garcia said.

Belen Jesuit has a special connection with Cuba. The school was founded on the island in the 1850s before relocating to Miami after the Cuban Revolution.

School president Father Pedro Saurez says Pope Francis has connected the sects of Catholicism and hopes he can do the same for Cuba and the U.S.

“This is exactly the way he wants to be: a builder of bridges,” Suarez said.

Saurez also blessed about a dozen Belen students, parents and other members of the community who planned to attend papal events in the U.S. or Cuba.

Andres Marquez was one of those students. The senior will see Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. He was hopeful about the pope’s trip to Cuba.

“I think his visit to Cuba is going to be one of those first steps to open dialogue,” Marquez said, “and, hopefully, peaceful democracy.”

Theresa Martinez, the school’s director of communications will be following the delegation and assisting the U.S. bishop’s communications team with the 8,000 credentialed media covering the trip.

Martinez also worked on the 2008 U.S. visit of Pope Benedict. Half as many media covered that trip.

“I think it’s an absolute indication of how popular Pope Francis is,” she said, “not just to Catholics, but I think he draws in people from every denomination.”