Vatican City — Pope Francis will meet Cuban President Raul Castro in a "strictly private" meeting on Sunday, only four months before the pontiff will travel to the Caribbean Island nation, the Vatican has announced.
Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi announced the visit in a brief statement late Tuesday evening, saying: "I confirm that Sunday May 10, in the course of the morning, the Holy Father will receive in a strictly private way the President of the Republic of Cuba, Mr. Raul Castro Ruz."
Francis -- who was credited by both the U.S. and Cuba for helping facilitate the beginning of normalization of relations between the two countries -- is to visit Cuba before beginning his trip to the U.S. in September.
Lombardi said Sunday's meeting between the two leaders would take place in the pope's study in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
"As we know, President Raul Castro has publicly thanked the Pope for the role he had in the becoming closer between Cuba and the United States of America, and the Pope will go in September to the Caribbean Island before his journey to the United States," Lombardi's statement concluded.
Francis is to visit the U.S. in late September, visiting the cities of Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.
During the U.S. 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.
Francis played a role in the recent thaw of relations between Cuba and the U.S. by writing letters to presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama. He also allowed final discussions on the matter to be hosted at the Vatican.
In a nationally televised address in the United States on Dec. 17, Obama personally thanked the pope, saying his "moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is."