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.