Cubans await Pope Francis with 'open arms,' Cardinal Ortega says

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Cubans are waiting for Pope Francis "with open arms," said Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana.

The cardinal met briefly with the pope at the end of the papal general audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square. The cardinal was in Rome fine-tuning the program for the papal visit to Cuba this September, according to the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

The pope will visit three cities in the island nation, from Sept. 19 to 22, prior to his trip to the United States, which will conclude with a papal Mass Sept. 27 at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Ortega reportedly told the pope the feeling in Cuba regarding his visit is "the joy of an entire people" and "gratitude for the role he carried out in the development of relations with the United States."

The Cuban bishops issued an itinerary in mid-May for the pope's visit, which includes Havana, Holguin and El Cobre, including the shrine dedicated to the country's patron, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

The cardinal was accompanied by the two other hosting bishops: Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez of Santiago de Cuba and Bishop Emilio Aranguren Echeverria of Holguin. The latter said the upcoming papal visit has Cuban Catholics feeling bolstered in their faith.

This will be the second papal trip to Cuba in three years. Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2012.

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