Pope Francis acknowledged the 13 percent of Cubans who practice Santeria during his trip.
There has been no mention of Santeria’s syncretic religion in Pope Francis’ speeches so far. However, the religion does have a significant hold on this island and the shrine is known to be among the most holy spots in Cuba. The native sect of Santeria is believed to have its supernatural, mysterious roots back in the land of Africa.
There have been several popular, devout worshipers of Santeria who have housed their gold records and Olympic medals in this sacred shrine. The shrine also holds various mementos including petition notes, crutches, 19th century war relics and replicas of many prized possessions.
Santeria actually originates from the Yoruba (now Nigeria) mythology and was born out of slavery. When the slaves came into the New World and worked in sugar plantations, Christianity was forced upon them. In order to safeguard their beliefs, these slaves first decided to syncretize their spirits (Orishas) with the Catholic saints of Rome.
There is a widespread assumption that pious Catholics combine some black magic in order to boost their faith. Also, Santeria is not really a mysterious sect. In fact, it is prevalent all over the country and one can see its existence in women wearing colorful dresses, representing the goddesses who are associated with this particular religion. Worshipers also have shrines in their homes so that they can keep away the evil spirits.
Besides Santeria, there are many other syncretic religions in Cuba that have African origins. However, only 13 percent of the 11 million people in Cuba practice the religion, as revealed by a survey this year. And this puts it in the second place after Catholicism as the most widely practiced religion. Several people are also of the opinion that both these religions are overlapping in their beliefs to a large extent. So it is hard to think of them as separate.
One of the practices of the syncretic religion involves worshiping an ambiguous Godly entity called Olodumare. This figure is the highest among all other gods. Several Cuban Catholic priests also accept this god and they consider it as an important aspect of the Cuban culture.