SANTIAGO DE CUBA - Pope Francis delivered mass Tuesday in the Cuban city of Santiago, cradle of the communist island's 1959 revolution, calling for a new kind of "revolution": one of "reconciliation."

The pope, who sets off later Tuesday for his first-ever visit to the United States, delivered the last mass of the Cuban leg of his trip at a basilica to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the island's patron saint -- a mixed-race Mary that symbolizes its intertwined Spanish and African roots. He praised Mary as the embodiment of a "revolution of tenderness," and urged Cubans to follow her example "to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation," in comments that appeared to allude to the nascent reconciliation he has helped broker between Cuba and the US.

"She protects our roots, our identity, so that we may never stray to paths of despair," he said.

"The soul of the Cuban people... was forged amid suffering and privation which could not suppress the faith, that faith which was kept alive thanks to all those grandmothers who fostered, in the daily life of their homes, the living presence of God." The 78-year-old Argentine, the first Latin American pope, was then due to meet with families and bless the southeastern city, Cuba's second-largest, before flying out to Washington.