Cuban bishops announce plans for Francis' 3-day visit

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Pope Francis will visit Cuba for three days Sept. 19-22 before his visit to the United States that month, the Cuban Catholic Bishops' Conference has announced.

Writing in a brief communication posted to their website Monday, the island nation's bishops said the pontiff will visit three cities -- Havana, Holguín, and Santiago de Cuba -- before traveling north.

While the pope's visit was confirmed last month, Monday's announcement seems to underscore the importance Francis is placing on the Cuban trip.

Likely to land on the island from Rome late on Sept. 19, the pope will nearly traverse the entire country from west to east in going from the capital city of Havana to the southeastern port of Santiago de Cuba before leaving for the U.S. Sept. 22.

Francis -- who was credited by both the U.S. and Cuba for helping facilitate the beginning of normalization of relations between the two countries -- met Cuban President Raul Castro at the Vatican on Sunday. 

The pontiff is to visit the U.S. beginning Sept. 22, visiting the cities of Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.

During that trip, Francis will become the first pope to address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24 and will address the U.N. on Sept. 25. He will also attend the World Meeting of Families, being held in Philadelphia from Sept. 22-27.

Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012. Pope John Paul II visited the country for five days in 1998.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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