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Pope May Make a Detour to Cuba During Upcoming U.S. Visit

First Posted: Apr 18, 2015 12:53 PM EDT
Pope considers detour to Cuba during U.S. trip

Photo : Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Pope Francis is considering making a detour to Cuba during his September trip to the United States, the Vatican said on Friday, according to USA Today.

While no decision has been made about a visit to the Communist island, the possibility was under discussion, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Holy See's chief spokesman.

"Contacts with the Cuban authorities are still in too early a phase for it to be possible to regard this stop as a firm decision and an operative plan," Lombardi added in a statement, NBC news noted.

The head of the world's more than 1 billion Catholics is already set to travel to Washington, where he will be welcomed by President Barack Obama on Sept. 23. The following day, Francis is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress, and on Sept. 25, he plans to attend the World Meeting of Families -- a major gathering of Catholic leaders -- in Philadelphia.

The Argentine-born pontiff, the first from the Americas, is credited with playing an important role in the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba, which Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, revealed last December, NBC News recalled.

"I want to thank His Holiness, Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is," the president noted at the time of the joint announcement.

Francis and Obama had extensively -- and secretly -- discussed the issue when the latter visited the Vatican earlier last year. A visit to Cuba "would add a dimension of international intrigue to (the pope's) already highly anticipated trip" to the United States, CNN judged.

The Catholic leader "has displayed a deep interest in international affairs," the news channel noted. Among other issues, he has weighed in on the civil war in Syria, hosted a prayer service between Israeli and Palestinian leaders at the Vatican and ruffled feathers with Turkey when he called the 1915 killing of 1.5 million Armenians a "genocide."

Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited Cuba in 2012, as Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had done 14 years earlier.

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