Castro says pope might start him praying again; Cuba travel set

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After spending close to an hour with Pope Francis, Cuban President Raul Castro told reporters he is so impressed by what the pope does and says that he might start praying and could even return to the church.

"I had a very agreeable meeting this morning with Pope Francis. He is a Jesuit, as you well know. I am, too, in a certain sense because I was always in Jesuit schools," Castro told reporters May 10.

"When the pope comes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses and will do so happily," the president told reporters at a news conference he held later in the day with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

On March 11, the Cuban bishops? conference announced Pope Francis will visit their country Sept. 19-22. An advisory on the bishops’ conference Facebook page said the trip will begin in Havana. Activities under consideration include a visit to the city of Holguin, in eastern Cuba, as well as a stop at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patroness of Cuba, and the nearby city of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba?s second-largest city.

From Santiago, the pope is expected to begin a Sept. 22-27 visit in the United States.

Castro said he left his meeting with the pope "very much struck by his wisdom, his humility and all the virtues that we all know he has."

"I read all the speeches of the pope," Castro said, and he told reporters that he already had told Renzi, "if the pope continues to speak this way, sooner or later I could start praying again and return to the Catholic Church. I’m not kidding. I’m a communist, (a member) of the Cuban Communist Party. The party has never admitted believers."

Today, he said, the country allows people to hold important positions even if they are not members of the party. "It’s a step forward," he said, although many of the reforms he would like to make are still being implemented.


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