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After a hectic three days of varied activities Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday concluded his visit to Cuba, where he received a friendly reception of the population.

Shortly before returning to Rome, the Pope and head of state of Vatican City welcomed the opportunity to "visit this beautiful island."

"I've been in the depths of my being to each and every one of the Cubans, who have surrounded me with their prayers and affection, giving me a warm hospitality and making me a participant in its deepest and just aspirations," he said at the international airport José Martí.

Benedict also criticized the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba by the United States.

Referring to the policy pursued by Washington for over 50 years, criticized the "restrictive economic measures imposed from outside the country," which "weigh negatively on the population."

At the airport, President Raul Castro welcomed the visit and the atmosphere of mutual understanding that prevailed during the stay of His Holiness, who came as a pilgrim of love by the way the Jubilee Year for the 400th anniversary of discovery of the image of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.

He also felt that the meeting of the Bishop of Rome with the inhabitants of the island gave him the opportunity to learn more and to verify the correctness of the purposes of the country.

Cuba has been aimed at the full dignity of man and man, and we know that is not built only on a material basis, but also on spiritual values ​​such as solidarity, mutual respect, honesty and truthfulness, said.

Benedict played an intense program in his last day in the Caribbean nation.

In the early hours, said mass at the Revolution Square Jose Marti, which was attended by about 300 000 people, according to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.

By early afternoon, the Pope spoke with the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, on the current world stage on issues of science, culture and ecology, among other issues.

According to Lombardi, the conversation about 30 minutes went very cordial at the headquarters of the Vatican embassy in Havana.

The day before, the pope made a courtesy call at the Palace of the Revolution to the host head of state Raul Castro.

During the meeting of about 40 minutes, the two leaders exchanged opinions on the national situation, bilateral relations between Cuba and the Holy See and the Church's role in society.

On Tuesday, shortly before traveling to the capital, the pope visited Santiago de Cuba in the sanctuary of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, where he prayed with his personal staff and the Cuban bishops.

In the eastern province, located 900 kilometers from Havana, the Holy Father celebrated Monday at the Plaza de la Revolución Antonio Maceo an outdoor Mass before more than 200 thousand people.

Benedict XVI arrived in the island from Mexico in his apostolic trip number 23, the second in Latin America after Brazil made in 2007.

For the second time in its history, Cuba hosted a pope since John Paul II visited 14 years ago.

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