Havana spruces up for Pope visit

Havana has received a rush makeover ahead of Pope Francis`s arrival in Cuba on Saturday with newly paved streets, a renovated cathedral, repainted buildings and billboards of the pontiff plastered across the city.

On the Cuban capital`s iconic Revolution Square, where Francis will give mass Sunday, workers have erected a massive altar and a sacristy painted in white and yellow -- the colors of the Vatican -- as well as three sets of stands for journalists and a 230-voice choir.

The square is decked out with enormous Catholic posters and Cuban and Vatican flags which flutter near a 36-meter (118-foot) sculpture of revolutionary Che Guevara`s silhouetted face.

Trees and facades around the capital sport posters of a smiling Pope Francis.

Workers have relaid the cobblestone streets where the popemobile will travel and upgraded the traffic signals. Terminal One at Jose Marti International Airport -- which has been reserved exclusively for the papal delegation -- has also been renovated.

"We`re thrilled about the visit and we`ll be delighted to greet him as a brother Jesuit," said Father Juan Miguel Arregui, who heads the local Jesuit order.

Similar makeovers have been carried out in the other Cuban cities the pope will visit on his trip -- Holguin and Santiago.

In Holguin, in the northeast, where Francis will give mass Monday, the cathedral has been repaired and repainted.

Officials said nearly 1,000 Cuban and foreign journalists are expected to cover the four-day visit, which the pope will follow up with a trip to the United States.

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