Havana Says Hola, Padre

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HAVANA: As Pope John Paul II arrived at Jose Marti International Airport Wednesday, tens of thousands of Cubans awaited the pontiff in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion. TIME correspondent Tammerlin Drummond found them more concerned with the political implications than with the spiritual dimensions of Pope John Paul II's visit.

"People are treating the Pope as a head of state," she reports. "They're saying 'It's good that someone of his stature is coming to Cuba,' but a lot of these people aren't religious. Remember, the country has been atheist for more than 30 years."

In unimpeded conversations with ordinary Cubans, Drummond found widespread opposition to the U.S. embargo although few expect the Pope to get it lifted. Most, however, believed the visit would boost Castro: "People on the streets seem to be very much in favor of the revolution," she says. "They have many complaints about their everyday difficulties, but on the whole most people I've spoken to seem very much in favor of the present form of government." And this week, they'll have unprecedented U.S. airtime to state their views.