A few weeks ago, on a stop at El Cobre, Cuba, I heard a man talking about leftovers and retired Pope Benedict XVI. In a country where St. John Paul II dominates the memory of Cuban Catholics, I went over to meet Omar Ramirez, an admitted fan of the retired pope. He talked about the time Pope Benedict stopped by the retreat house in 2012, and privately met with him and his wife during a visit to the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. The pope stayed at the retreat house where Ramirez is the caretaker.
No one but the pope, his entourage and the Ramirezes were allowed to stay on the property, which is next door to the shrine that is home to the patroness of Cuba.
Ramirez said he never imagined he’d one day see, much less meet, a pope. Since they were the only ones allowed in the retreat house, they cooked and served Pope Benedict’s meals, and Ramirez’s wife ended up ironing the pope’s alb.
The caretaker likes to tell visitors that the pope did not eat much and, when he was done with his food, Ramirez ate his leftovers. They keep a photo of the visit at the entrance to their home.
No doubt that today, on Pope Benedict’s 88th birthday, someone in Cuba is fondly thinking of him.