Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cuba on Monday, 14 years after his predecessor Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1998, to encourage the followers of the Roman Catholic Church to renew their faith and to push for a larger Church role in the communist land, reported Reuters.

Benedict who is on a three-day visit was greeted by Cuba President Raul Castro and a delegation of church officials on his arrival at the airport in Santiago.

The Pope then visited Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago de Cuba where he celebrated an open-air mass with tens of thousands of people. His visit concided with the 400th anniversary of Cuba's patron saint, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre.

During the ceremony the Pope sent a strong message to the Cubans telling them to build a renewed and better society.

"I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God," Reuters quoted the Pope as saying.

"I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be," he added.

In his remarks, the Cuban leader told the Benedict that he guarantees total religious freedom for all citizens and has good relations with all religious institutions.

The pope is due to visit a shrine outside Santiago on Tuesday and then he will head to the capital Havana, where he is to hold another mass in the capital's Revolution Square on Wednesday. Benedict will also hold private talks with President Castro.

Check below pictures of Pope Benedict celebrating open-air mass at Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago de Cuba:

Pope Benedict XVI (L) and Cuba's President Raul Castro talk after the Pope's arrival in Santiago de Cuba on 26 March 2012.REUTERS/Javier Galeano/Pool
Pope Benedict XVI arrives to officiate a mass at the Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago de CubaREUTERS/Mariana Bazo
Pope Benedict XVI arrives in his Popemobile at Antonio Maceo squareREUTERS/Cubadebate
Pope Benedict XVIREUTERS/Desmond Boylan
Pope Benedict XVI (C) celebrates mass at the Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago de CubaREUTERS/Mariana Bazo
Pope Benedict XVI (2nd L) walks past Our Lady of Charity, Cuba's patron saint, while celebrating mass at the Antonio Maceo Revolution SquareREUTERS/Mariana Bazo
A girl receives communion from Pope Benedict XVI (R) during a mass celebrated at the Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago de CubaREUTERS/Rickey Rogers
A man waves a Cuban flag during a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Antonio Maceo square in Santiago de CubaREUTERS/Tony Gentile
Pope Benedict XVI (L) and Cuba's President Raul Castro talk after the Pope's arrival in Santiago de Cuba on 26 March 2012.REUTERS/Javier Galeano/Pool
Pope Benedict XVI arrives to officiate a mass at the Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago de CubaREUTERS/Mariana Bazo
Pope Benedict XVI arrives in his Popemobile at Antonio Maceo squareREUTERS/Cubadebate
Pope Benedict XVIREUTERS/Desmond Boylan
Pope Benedict XVI (C) celebrates mass at the Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago de CubaREUTERS/Mariana Bazo
Pope Benedict XVI (2nd L) walks past Our Lady of Charity, Cuba's patron saint, while celebrating mass at the Antonio Maceo Revolution SquareREUTERS/Mariana Bazo
A girl receives communion from Pope Benedict XVI (R) during a mass celebrated at the Antonio Maceo Revolution Square in Santiago de CubaREUTERS/Rickey Rogers
A man waves a Cuban flag during a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Antonio Maceo square in Santiago de CubaREUTERS/Tony Gentile