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Pope will visit Cuba--and Mexico?--next year

Catholic World News - December 09, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cuba next year, the Cuban bishops’ conference has confirmed.

Rumors of a papal visit to the island nation have circulated in Rome for several weeks, and in November the papal spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, revealed that the idea was under active consideration. The Vatican has not yet officially announced the trip, but the Cuban bishops’ conference confirmed on December 9 that a papal visit was expected, probably in March 2012.

“It will be a moment for energizing the faith in Cuba,” said Msgr. José Felix Perez, the executive secretary of the Cuban episcopal conference.

Relations between Church and state in Cuba have improved markedly since 1998, when Blessed John Paul II became the first Pontiff to visit the Communist nation. In the past year especially, Church leaders in Cuba have been instrumental in securing the release of many political prisoners.

Still unknown is whether a papal trip to Cuba could be combined with a visit to Mexico: a possibility that Father Lombardi said was also under consideration. Church officials in Cuba said that the Pope's travel plans would be announced on Monday, December 12--which is, perhaps not coincidentally, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of Mexico.

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