HAVANA TIMES, Jan 2 — The announced visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba will take place on March 26-28, and will include open-air masses in the Revolution Squares of both Santiago de Cuba and Havana.
The Cuban government’s rapprochement with the Catholic Church, once considered an enemy of the revolution, has been gradual and stepped-up first with the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998, under Fidel Castro, and now during the term of office of President Raul Castro.
Benedict, 84, will also visit the home of Cuba’s patron saint, the Virgin of Charity in El Cobre, outside of Santiago de Cuba. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the finding of the relic, supposedly by fishermen.
In 2010, the Catholic Church and the Spanish government worked out an agreement with the Cuban government that allowed over a hundred political prisoners to be released.
The Cuban Catholic Church has become more of an interlocutor with the government than any other civic institution or organization and has considerably more leeway to publish and disseminate different points of view.