Speaking to a gathering of Cuban youth, Cardinal Ortega said that the most important change to be wrought by the papal visit would be an increase in faith. "Don't let yourselves be swept away by political or economic considerations," he said. He added that most important effects of the visit are already being felt with an increase in interest among Cubans in their Catholic faith.
The formerly officially atheist government has made many concessions to the Church since President Fidel Castro agreed to the papal visit in November 1996. The Church has been allowed to hold outdoor Masses and celebrations, Castro reinstated Christmas as a public holiday this year for the first time in nearly three decades, and state-run media published a full papal message to Cuba just before Christmas.