Cuba and the Vatican have agreed to make arrangements for Pope John Paul II to visit the communist-ruled island, Vatican Foreign Minister Jean-Louis Tauran said Tuesday.
Archbishop Tauran said Cuban President Fidel Castro told him a longstanding Cuban invitation to the pontiff was valid. The Vatican envoy gave no indication when the visit would take place. Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina said it was premature to discuss the timing.
Castro is expected to meet the pope if he travels to Rome for a United Nations food summit next month. In Rome, Italian news agencies Tuesday quoted diplomatic sources as saying the Castro would spend about one week in the Italian capital.
Robaina said it was not yet possible to confirm if the trip to Rome would take place. Castro traditionally never announces his travel plans in advance.
Cuba is the only Spanish-speaking country in Latin America that the pontiff has not visited.
During a five-day visit, Archbishop Tauran said the church would like a wider public role in Cuba, such as in the role carried out by its charity, Caritas.
But while he talked of problems that still existed between the church and state, he did not make any remarks, at least publicly, about Cuba's political system. And he pleased his hosts by reiterating the Vatican's rejection of the long-standing U.S. economic embargo against Havana.
Relations between the church and state were strained after the 1959 revolution.