Sep 19, 2015 12:04 AM

A glance at current and past papal visits to Cuba

The Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) Pope Francis will be the third Roman Catholic pontiff to visit Cuba when he arrives on Saturday.

Here's a glance at his planned trip and the two previous papal visits:


POPE FRANCIS: Visit is scheduled from Saturday through Tuesday. Francis will celebrate Mass in Havana's main square, the Plaza of the Revolution, on Sunday morning and will visit priests, members of religious orders and seminarians at the Havana Cathedral that late afternoon. He will celebrate Mass on Monday in the central-eastern city of Holguin, and will celebrate another Mass on Tuesday at the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre outside Santiago in far-eastern Cuba. After visiting the Santiago Cathedral late Tuesday morning, he departs for the United States.


POPE BENEDICT XVI: Visited Cuba March 26-28, 2012, during a new period of transition under President Raul Castro. The president greeted Benedict upon his arrival and attended the papal Mass held in Santiago to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba's patron saint. Benedict also celebrated Mass in Havana and met with former president Fidel Castro. The pope called on Cubans to "reinvigorate your faith . that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity" when he was in Santiago, the hometown of the Castro brothers.


POPE JOHN PAUL II: Made the first papal visit to the island Jan. 21-25, 1998. During his five days, he met with then-President Fidel Castro, visited a leprosy center and sat down with religious leaders. He celebrated Mass in the cities of Santa Clara, Camaguey, Santiago and Havana, at the Plaza of the Revolution. A huge image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was erected on the side of the plaza's National Library to serve as a backdrop to the temporary papal altar. John Paul's visit is seen as an important step in Cuba's gradual opening, which led last year to the declaration of detente with the United States. In a now-famous speech during his trip, John Paul said Cuba should "open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba."


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