Pope meets Fidel Castro after warning against ideology

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Pope Meets with Fidel Castro, Later Raul Castro

HAVANA (AP) -- Pope Francis met with Fidel Castro on Sunday after urging thousands of Cubans to serve one another and not an ideology, delivering a subtle jab at the communist system during a Mass celebrated under the gaze of an image of Che Guevara in Havana's iconic Revolution Plaza.

The Vatican described the 40-minute meeting at Castro's residence as informal and familial, with an exchange of books and discussion about big issues facing humanity, including Francis' recent encyclical on the environment and the global economic system.

See pictures of their meeting in the gallery below:

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Pope Francis with Fidel Castro 9/20
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Pope meets Fidel Castro after warning against ideology
Pope Francis and Cuba's Fidel Castro shakes hands, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. The Vatican described the 40-minute meeting at Castro's residence as informal and familial, with an exchange of books. (AP Photo/Alex Castro)
Backdropped by sign showing, from left, Fidel Castro, Jose Marti, Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez, people watch Pope Francis pass by in his popemobile from the airport to Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. The sign reads in Spanish "Example of true brotherhood." Pope Francis began his 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States, embarking on his first trip to the onetime Cold War foes after helping to nudge forward their historic rapprochement. (Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate Via AP)
In this aerial photo, a giant portrait of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro drawn with a tractor and plough on a 27,000 square meters (6,67 acres) corn field by Italian artist Dario Gambarin, in Castagnaro, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. Gambarin said the portrait of Castro was celebrate the historic visit of Pope Francis to Cuba. (AP Photo/Dario Gambarin)
HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20: Pope Francis shakes hands with a member of the media as he arrives at Havana Cathedral on September 20, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20: People look on as Pope Francis performs Mass on September 20, 2015 in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States. (Photo by Carlos Becerra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Sunday Mass at the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana, Cuba, on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
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Unlike the 2012 visit of Benedict XVI, when Castro peppered the German theologian with questions, the meeting with Francis was more of a conversation, papal spokesman the Rev. Frederico Lombardi said.

A photo provided by Alex Castro, Fidel's son and official photographer, showed the 89-year-old former president and Francis looking into each other's eye as they shook hands, the pope in his white vestments and Castro in a white button-down shirt and Adidas sweat top. Castro appeared to be gripping another, unidentified man for support.

See photos of Pope Francis leading mass in Cuba:

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Pope Francis in Havana, Cuba - 9/20
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Pope meets Fidel Castro after warning against ideology
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Cubans wait for catch a glimpse of Pope Francis as he arrives at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. AFP PHOTO / Rodrigo ARANGUA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Cubans gather at Revolution Square in Havana for a mass with Pope Francis, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman is carried away on a stretcher by Red Cross workers after she fainted during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A religious man with a Mexican flag waits for the arrival of Pope Francis at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Faithful attend Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Cuban President Raul Castro (C) speaks with other authorities and their relatives as they wait for the arrival of Pope Francis at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives for Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Faithful wait for the arrival of Pope Francis for a Mass in Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. The photo of the pope reads in Spanish: "Welcome!" (AP Photo/Enric Marti)
Pope Francis kisses a girl as he arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO ARANGUA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO ARANGUA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)
People cheer as Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO ARANGUA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO ARANGUA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (L) gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (C) walks to the altar arrives to give mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (L) gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (C) gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
A statue of Jesus stands in Revolution Square, where a statue of revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevera decorates a nearby government building in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, as Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (Tony Gentile/POOL via AP)
Pope Francis walks to the altar as he arrives to celebrate Mass in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (Tony Gentile/POOL via AP)
A chorus sings as Pope Francis arrives for Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis is helped to the altar as he arrives to celebrate Mass in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, where a sculpture of revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara decorates a nearby government building. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (Tony Gentile/POOL via AP)
A woman prays during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
People attend the first mass of Pope Francis on his visit to Cuba, at Havana's Revolution Square on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (2-L) gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
People gather at Revolution Square for Pope Francis's mass on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. Across from the square is a portrait of revolutionary leader Camilo Cienfuegos. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20: Pope Francis performs Mass on September 20, 2015 in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
General view of Havana's Revolution Square as Pope Francis gives the first mass of his visit to Cuba, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO ARANGUA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)
Cuban President Raul Castro and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (R) wait for the arrival of Pope Francis at Revolution Square in Havana on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis will give mass on Revolution Square, the biggest event of his trip to Cuba, with nearly a million people expected to attend. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
People wait for the start of the mass to be officiated by Pope Francis at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Religious men and faithfuls attend Pope Francis' mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
A religious woman waits for the start of the mass to be officiated by Pope Francis at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO ARANGUA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)
People cheer as Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana to give mass on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at Revolution Square in Havana to give mass on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis gives mass at Revolution Square in Havana, on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. The pontiff's eight-day tour will also take him to the United States. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A soldier stands guard as people gather at Revolution Square for Pope Francis's mass on September 20, 2015. Pope Francis greeted massive crowds of fans and Catholic faithful Sunday as he arrived in his popemobile to give mass on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, the highlight of his trip to Cuba. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman shades herself from the sun at the end of Mass, celebrated by Pope Francis in Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis urged Cubans to care for one another, and not judge each other, as he opened his visit to the country amid great hopes that the key role he played in bringing about detente with the U.S. will result in changes on the island. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
A priest gives Holy Communion to faithful during Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
A nun holds an Argentine flag during Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, who's from Argentina, in Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, where a sculpture of revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara decorates a government building. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Enric Marti)
Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega, right, stands behind Pope Francis in the popemobile as they arrive for Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. During Mass Sunday, Ortega thanked the pope for his work promoting detente between Havana and Washington and called for reconciliation between Cubans living on the island and elsewhere. Ortega was among many priests sent to military-run agricultural camps in the 1960s after Fidel Castro declared Cuba to be socialist and accused prominent Catholics of trying to topple him. (Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate Via AP)
A man looks out over Revolution Square as Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, where sculptures of revolutionary heroes Ernesto "Che" Guevara, left, and Camilo Cienfuegos decorate government buildings. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Photographers aim their cameras at Pope Francis as he celebrates Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, where a sculpture of revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara and a Cuban flag decorate government buildings. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
People attend Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20: People leave after Pope Francis performs Mass on September 20, 2015 in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States. (Photo by Carlos Becerra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20: People look on as Pope Francis performs Mass on September 20, 2015 in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States. (Photo by Carlos Becerra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20: People look on as Pope Francis performs Mass on September 20, 2015 in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States. (Photo by Carlos Becerra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20: People look on as Pope Francis performs Mass on September 20, 2015 in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States. (Photo by Carlos Becerra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Francis called on Castro after celebrating Mass in Havana's main plaza on his first full day in Cuba. Believers and non-believers alike streamed into the square before dawn, and they erupted in cheers when history's first Latin American pope spun through the crowd in his open-sided popemobile. Francis didn't disappoint, winding his way slowly through the masses and stopping to kiss children held up to him.

While most Cubans are nominally Catholic, fewer than 10 percent practice their faith and Cuba is the least Catholic country in Latin America. The crowd was not as big as when St. John Paul II became the first pope to visit the island in 1998, but it drew people who seemed to genuinely want to be there and listen to Francis' message.

"This is very important for us," said Mauren Gomez, 40, who traveled some 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Villa Clara to Havana by bus, spending her time reciting the Rosary.

In his homily delivered under the gaze of a metal portrait of revolutionary fighter Che Guevara, Francis urged Cubans to care for one another out of a sense of service, not ideology. He encouraged them to refrain from judging each other by "looking to one side or the other to see what our neighbor is doing or not doing."

"Whoever wishes to be great must serve others, not be served by others," he said. "Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people."

Many Cubans complain about the rigidity of Cuba's system in which nearly every aspect of life is controlled by the government, from cultural institutions to block-level neighborhood watch committees. While the system has softened in recent years, Cubans can be excluded or lose benefits if they are perceived as being disloyal or unfaithful to the principles of the revolution.

RELATED GALLERY: Protesters show up at mass:

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Protesters disrupt Pope Francis mass in Cuba 9/20
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Pope meets Fidel Castro after warning against ideology
Two unidentified men are taken away by security officers after they threw leaflets as Pope Francis arrives for a Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday Sept. 20, 2015. Francis will not be meeting with dissidents during his visit, sparking critiques from the political opposition who say they feel let down by an institution they believe should help push for greater freedom in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
One of two unidentified men is grabbed by a security officer after they threw leaflets as Pope Francis arrives for a Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday Sept. 20, 2015. Francis will not be meeting with dissidents during his visit, sparking critiques from the political opposition who say they feel let down by an institution they believe should help push for greater freedom in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Two unidentified men are taken away by security officers after they threw leaflets as Pope Francis arrives for a Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday Sept. 20, 2015. Francis will not be meeting with dissidents during his visit, sparking critiques from the political opposition who say they feel let down by an institution they believe should help push for greater freedom in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
One of two unidentified men is grabbed by a security officer after they threw leaflets as Pope Francis arrives for Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. Francis will not be meeting with dissidents during his visit, sparking critiques from the political opposition who say they feel let down by an institution they believe should help push for greater freedom in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
One of two unidentified men is grabbed by a security officer after they threw leaflets as Pope Francis arrives for a Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. Francis will not be meeting with dissidents during his visit, sparking critiques from the political opposition who say they feel let down by an institution they believe should help push for greater freedom in Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20: Security guards intervene a protestor as Pope Francis performs Mass on September 20, 2015 in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States (Photo by Carlos Becerra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Cubans are also increasingly concerned about growing inequality on the communist island, in which those with access to foreign capital live lives of relative luxury while others can barely feed themselves, generating jealousy and division within families and society at large.

"Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it," Francis told the crowd. "That is why Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, and to look instead to those who are most vulnerable."

Maria Regla González, a 57-year-old teacher, said she appreciated Francis' message of reconciliation and unity for all Cubans, and said Francis was particularly able to convey it given he is Latin American and speaks their language.

"This is a crucial moment, and the pope's support for us is very important," she said. "He made a call for unity, and that's what we want."

Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Francis' meeting with Castro was low-key and involved an exchange of views about big issues facing the world.

Watch more coverage below:

Raul Castro Welcomes Pope Francis to Palace of the Revolution

Francis brought Fidel three books: Two by an Italian priest, Alessandro Pronzato, and a book of sermons by Fidel's former teacher, the Rev. Amando Llorente. Llorente taught at Colegio de Belen, a Jesuit high school where Fidel was a student. Llorente, a Spaniard, was forced out of the country after Castro's revolution and died in Miami in 2010.

Francis also brought two compact discs with Llorente's voice, as well as copies of his papal encyclical "Praise Be" and previous document, "The Joy of the Gospel." Castro gave the pope a book of his musings on religion, written with the Brazilian cleric Frei Betto.

Austen Ivereigh, author of "The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope," says he thinks the pope is sending a subtle message to Fidel, whose rule was marked by conflict with the Catholic Church and other groups.

"I can't help but think that it's Pope Francis inviting Fidel Castro to come to terms with his past," Ivereigh said. "There is clearly a lot of pain in this relationship," with Llorente.

Francis was finishing the day with a meeting with Fidel's brother Raul, an evening vespers service in the San Cristobal Cathedral and a meeting with Cuban young people.

In an important aside, Francis ended Sunday's Mass with an appeal for Colombia's government and rebels, who have been holding peace talks in Havana for over two years, to put an end to South America's longest-running armed conflict.

"Please, we do not have the right to allow ourselves yet another failure on this path of peace and reconciliation," he said.

The appeal followed the historic call he issued to President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro to end their half-century of estrangement that resulted in the restoration of diplomatic relations this summer. Since then, the two leaders have reopened embassies in each other's countries, held a personal meeting, had at least two phone calls and launched a process aimed at normalizing ties in fields ranging from trade to tourism to telecommunications.

Jose Rafael Velazquez, a 54-year-old worker, arrived with his wife at the plaza three hours before Mass began. He said he wasn't religious, but came more out of curiosity to witness a historic event.

"We also are very hopeful for this visit, because the pope was key in the deal with the United States," he said. "Ever since the announcement, there have been changes and this visit gives me more hope that it'll get better."

The Vatican has long opposed the U.S. trade embargo on the grounds that it hurts ordinary Cubans most, and is clearly hopeful that detente will eventually lead to a lifting of sanctions.

But only the U.S. Congress can remove the embargo. Francis will visit Congress next week at the start of the U.S. leg of his trip, but it's not known if he will raise the issue there.

Cecilia Villalejo, a 69-year-old retiree, was nearly brought to tears with the final hymn of the Mass, saying the Cuban people desperately need a message of hope to have the strength to carry on.

"I feel very sad. I've got all my family in the United States, especially my son whom I haven't seen for 15 years," she said. "And I'm sad because in reality, I don't think much will come of all this."

Watch more coverage below:

Pope Francis Sends Message to Philadelphia Ahead of Visit

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