RELIGION

Cubans excited over visit by Pope Francis, hope it will accelerate historic warming with US

  • Members of the Havana University of the Arts Orchestra rehearse ahead of Pope Francis' Mass at Revolution Square, in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Pope Francis will visit Cuba from Sept. 19-22, before arriving in the United States, making him the third pontiff to visit the island nation. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

    Members of the Havana University of the Arts Orchestra rehearse ahead of Pope Francis' Mass at Revolution Square, in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Pope Francis will visit Cuba from Sept. 19-22, before arriving in the United States, making him the third pontiff to visit the island nation. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis arrives for the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    Pope Francis arrives for the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 25, 1998 file photo, Pope John Paul II arrives to Plaza of the Revolution to celebrate Mass in Havana, Cuba, to celebrate Mass, where a  sculpture of Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara covers the Interior Ministry building. Seventeen years ago, a newly named Argentine archbishop laid out his thoughts on the meaning of a papal visit to Cuba. "Through the presence, the voice and the prophetic mission of the pope, the church offers a path forward to peace, justice and true liberty," Jorge Mario Bergoglio wrote. "Not everything will be the same after he leaves." Millions of Cubans hope those words written about John Paul II's 1998 trip to Cuba prove true when their author, now Pope Francis, flies into Havana on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta, File)

    FILE - In this Jan. 25, 1998 file photo, Pope John Paul II arrives to Plaza of the Revolution to celebrate Mass in Havana, Cuba, to celebrate Mass, where a sculpture of Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara covers the Interior Ministry building. Seventeen years ago, a newly named Argentine archbishop laid out his thoughts on the meaning of a papal visit to Cuba. "Through the presence, the voice and the prophetic mission of the pope, the church offers a path forward to peace, justice and true liberty," Jorge Mario Bergoglio wrote. "Not everything will be the same after he leaves." Millions of Cubans hope those words written about John Paul II's 1998 trip to Cuba prove true when their author, now Pope Francis, flies into Havana on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta, File)  (The Associated Press)

Seventeen years ago, a newly named Argentine Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio laid out his thoughts on the meaning of Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba.

He wrote that "the church offers a path forward to peace, justice and true liberty," and added, "Not everything will be the same after he leaves."

Millions of Cubans hope those prove true when their author flies into Havana on Saturday as Pope Francis.

Across the island, Cubans are excitedly looking at the pope's 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States through the lens of his role as the mediator of detente between the two countries. Many say they expect the visit to help transform the diplomatic warming from a phase of abstract political negotiation into real benefits for the Cuban people.