Vatican: Francis considering Cuba stop during trip to US

Vatican City — Pope Francis is considering making a stop in Cuba during his upcoming trip to the United States in September, but nothing has been confirmed, the Vatican announced Friday.

Francis -- who was credited by both the U.S. and Cuba in December for helping facilitate the landmark beginning of normalization of relations between the two countries -- "has taken into consideration the idea" of visiting the island nation, the Vatican said.

Spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said, however, that discussions are "still in too early a phase for it to be possible to regard this stop as a firm decision and an operative plan."

The pope is to visit the U.S. in late September, visiting the cities of Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. A possible addition of a Cuban stop on the trip was first reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal.

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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