Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pope will meet Mexican, Cuban presidents during visit in March

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and bishops and Catholics from the region when he visits Mexico and Cuba March 23-28.

He will also deliver a message to the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean as well as pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Cuba.

Vatican Radio released the pope's itinerary as detailed by the Mexican and Cuban bishops' conferences Jan. 2.

The pope will visit three cities in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico; the Vatican spokesman had said Pope Benedict would not visit Mexico City because of the elevation -- 7,900 feet above sea level -- but the towns in Guanajuato are each about 5,900 feet above sea level.

In Cuba, he will make stops in Santiago de Cuba and the capital, Havana.

From Rome, the pope will arrive in Mexico March 23 at the airport in Leon, Guanajuato, where he will be received by President Calderon and Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon.

During his four-day stay in Mexico, the pope will be staying at the Miraflores College in Leon, an institute run by religious sisters.

The pope will meet government officials and President Calderon March 24 at the Guanajuato state government house of Conde Rul. Later he will greet and bless those gathered at Peace Square.

He will celebrate Mass March 25 in Silao's Bicentennial Park, which is at the foot of the Cerro del Cubilete hill and its 67-foot-tall monument of Cristo Rey. Representatives of the 91 dioceses of Mexico will be present at the Mass.

Later in the day, the pope will celebrate evening prayer in Leon's cathedral and deliver a message for all the bishops of Mexico and the representatives of bishops' conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The pope will leave Mexico March 26 for Cuba, where he will be welcomed at the Santiago de Cuba airport by President Castro, Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez of Santiago de Cuba and representatives of the Cuban bishops' conference. 

The pope will celebrate Mass in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square later that day. He will stay at a priests' residence in El Cobre.

The pope will make a private visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre March 27.

Afterward, he will head to the airport and fly to Havana where he will be welcomed by Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana, bishops and religious, government and civil leaders.

The pope will have an official meeting with President Castro and will meet with Cuban bishops at the apostolic nunciature, where the pope will be staying.

The pope will celebrate Mass March 28 in Jose Marti Revolution Square and leave later that day for Rome.

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