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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will receive the President of Cuba, Raúl Castro Ruz, in private audience this Sunday, May 10, the Holy See has announced.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, director of the Holy See Press Office, issued a brief statement on the visit at approximately 8pm Rome-time on Tuesday:
I confirm that on Sunday morning May 10, 2015, the Holy Father will receive in a strictly private manner the President of the Republic of Cuba, Mr. Raúl Castro Ruz. The meeting will take place in the study of the Paul VI Audience Hall.
As we already know, President Raúl Castro has publicly thanked the Pope for his role in fostering the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States of America. The Pope will visit the Caribbean island in September en route to the United States.
The Holy See confirmed April 22 that Pope Francis will visit Cuba before his arrival in the United States in September.
Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to Cuba January 21-25, 1998. It marked the first time a Roman Pontiff visited the island nation, and the first time he was welcomed since Fidel Castro rose to power in the Communist Revolution of 1959.
Pope Benedict XVI made a three-day visit to the island in March 2012.
However, Pope Francis’ upcoming trip is particularly significant in light of the key role the Vatican played in restoring diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba earlier this year.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.