Vatican confirms: Francis to visit Cuba before US in September

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Pope Francis will make a stop in Cuba before his upcoming trip to the United States in September, the Vatican confirmed Wednesday.

Francis -- who was credited by both the U.S. and Cuba for helping facilitate the beginning of normalization of relations between the two countries -- "has decided to carry out a stop on the Island before coming to the United States," announced Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi.

Wednesday's news confirms earlier reports that the pope was considering visiting the island nation.

Lombardi told journalists at the Vatican press office that details of the visit are still being worked out and will likely be published in the months leading up to the U.S. trip. But the spokesman added: "Yes, I confirm that there will be a stop."

The pope 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."

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

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