Pope Francis to welcome Raul Castro in Vatican
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is to receive the President of Cuba, Raul Castro, this coming Sunday, May 10th, in private audience. The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, confirmed the audience on Tuesday, in response to questions from journalists.
Few details are known about the audience itself: it will be “strictly private,” according to Fr. Lombardi, SJ, and will take place in the Holy Father’s study inside the Paul VI Hall.
The statement confirming the visit goes on to recall some of the context of the visit, including the instrumental part Pope Francis played in achieving the first significant thaw in relations between Cuba and the US since the Communist revolution on the island, led by Raul Castro’s elder brother, Fidel Castro, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
“As we know,” the statement reads, “President Raul Castro has publicly thanked Pope Francis for the role he played in the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States of America.”
When Castro and US President Barack Obama announced their intentions to continue work on improving relations, Obama said, “His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me, and to Cuba’s President Raul Castro.”
Developments in bilateral relations continue, meanwhile, with the US Treasury Department on Monday approving the return of passenger ferry services between the United States and Cuba.
In the wake of the developments on the diplomatic front between Cuba and the US, it was also announced that the Holy Father would be adding a trip to Cuba, visiting the island nation in September of this year, ahead of his visit to the United States at the end of that month.