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January 01, 2012

Pope Benedict to Visit Cuba in March

Roman Catholic Church officials say Pope Benedict XVI will be in Cuba March 26 to 28 following a visit to Mexico.

Cuban President Raul Castro and Catholic clergy will greet Benedict when he arrives in the eastern city of Santiago, where he is expected to celebrate mass.  The pope is also scheduled to travel to the Cuban capital, Havana, and perform mass in Revolution Square, where thousands turned out to see his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in 1998.

Just after John Paul's visit, Mr. Castro's brother, then-President Fidel Castro, declared Cuba a secular state, where the government takes no official stance on religious matters.  

This allowed Cubans greater religious expression in what had been a largely atheistic state.

Last month, Raul Castro said his government would pardon nearly 3,000 prisoners for humanitarian reasons. The Cuban leader cited Benedict's upcoming visit in making his announcement.