Cuba′s Raul Castro holds Vatican talks with Pope Francis | News | DW | 10.05.2015
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Cuba's Raul Castro holds Vatican talks with Pope Francis

The Cuban president has come to the Holy See to personally thank the pope for his assistance in the restoration of diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba. Pope Francis will visit both countries in September.

The Cuban president has come to the Holy See to personally thank the pope for his assistance in the restoration of diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba. Pope Francis will visit both countries in September.

President Raul Castro of Cuba arrived at Vatican City on Sunday to personally thank Pope Francis for his role in brokering the restoration of diplomatic relations between his country and the United States.

The pontiff personally acted as mediator between the two sides, hosting delegations from both nations last October ahead of the surprise announcement two months later that Havana and Washington would reestablish ties after five decades of animosity.

Francis gave Castro a private audience in a small studio instead of the imposing Apostolic Palace library, where heads of state are traditionally received. After about an hour, Castro shook hands with Francis before leaving to hold talks with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

"I thanked the Holy Father for his contribution to the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States," Castro told the press.

Castro had more warm words for the Bishop of Rome in a press conference following his meeting with Renzi, saying he read "all of the pope's speeches" and that they were so convincing "sooner or later I will start praying again and rejoin the Catholic Church, I am not kidding."

Francis planning Cuba trip

Pope Francis is due to visit Cuba in September ahead of his first official trip to the United States, although it will not be his first trip to the Caribbean island nation. As the auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, the man formerly known as Jorge Bergoglio accompanied Pope John Paul II on the historic first papal visit to Cuba in 1998.

"Let Cuba open itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba," John Paul II urged during his visit.

Castro's stop at the Holy See follows a visit to Russia, where the president attended a grand parade celebrating the Red Army's role in defeating Nazi Germany.

es/jr (AP, AFP, dpa)

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