Havana (AFP) – Workers in Cuba have begun building the altar where Pope Francis will deliver mass during a landmark visit next month, placing it just to the left of a giant image of Che Guevara.
Francis, who hails from Argentina like the famous revolutionary, will visit Cuba September 19 to 22 as part of a tour that will later take him to the United States.
He will give a mass on September 20 in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion. The sprawling central square is bordered on one side by the interior ministry; its facade sports a giant sculpted outline of Guevara’s face.
The 36-meter (118-foot) work is based on an iconic 1960 photo of Guevara by Alberto Korda that has also been reproduced on T-shirts and posters worldwide.
Guevara, who fought alongside Fidel Castro to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1959 Cuban Revolution, has been a symbol of Marxist revolution since his capture and execution in Bolivia in 1967 at age 39.
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI also gave masses near the giant Guevara image during trips to Cuba in 1998 and 2012, respectively.
Pope Francis played a role in the secret negotiations that led the United States and Cuba to restore diplomatic relations last month after more than half a century of animosity rooted in the Cold War.
Cuba is the only one-party Communist-ruled nation in the Americas.