Pope expected to visit México and Cuba in 2012

Senior Roman Catholic officials say Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cuba and México next year, his first Papal visit to the two Latin American nations.

Monsignor Jose Felix Pérez, one of the Vatican’s top officials in Cuba, said Thursday the exact dates have not yet been determined. Pérez said he thought the pontiff’s visit would energize Cuba’s Catholic community and perhaps be a chance to discuss reforms with Cuba’s government.

Relations were long strained between the Roman Catholic Church and Cuba under former president Fidel Castro, but began to improve in the 1990s. After Pope John Paul’s visit to Cuba in 1998, Castro declared Cuba a secular state in which the government takes no official stance on religious matters.

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

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