.- Pope Benedict XVI’s itinerary for his March 2012 visit to Mexico and Cuba was released Jan. 2 through Vatican Radio.
He will leave Rome on March 23 and arrive in the city of Leon, Mexico where President Felipe Calderon, Archbishop José Martín of Leon and representatives of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference will officially receive him.
The Pope will stay at the residence of the Sisters of Miraflores College in Leon, according to Vatican Radio’s unofficial translation of press releases from the bishops’ conferences of Mexico and Cuba.
On March 24 the pontiff will have an official meeting with President Calderon and his delegation at the Conde Rul House, the seat of the Guanajuato state government—the state that Leon is located in. He will then greet and bless children and the faithful who are gathered in La Paz square.
On Sunday, March 25, Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass at the municipality of Silao’s Bicentennial Park, at the foot of Cubilete Hill. The monument to Christ the King stands atop the hill.
He will then celebrate vespers at Leon’s cathedral and deliver a message to the bishops of Mexico and other representatives of the bishops’ conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean.
On the morning of March 26, high-ranking Mexican civil and religious authorities will say farewell to the Pope at Leon airport, as he leaves for Cuba.
Pope Benedict will arrive in Cuba’s city of Santiago, where he will be officially received by President Raul Castro, Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez of Santiago, and members of Cuba’s Catholic bishops’ conference.
The Pope will celebrate a sunset Mass in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square to mark the Solemnity of the Annunciation. After Mass he will go to El Cobre, where he will stay at a priests’ residence.
On March 27, Pope Benedict will make a private visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba, where he will pray for a few minutes before the image of the Virgin.
He will then travel to Havana’s José Martí Airport, where he will be welcomed at noon by Archbishop of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops, and other religious and civil authorities.
In the afternoon he will visit President Castro for an official meeting, and at dusk he will meet with all the Catholic bishops of Cuba at the papal nunciature.
On the morning of March 28 he will preside at Mass in José Martí Revolution Square before returning to the nunciature. The Pope’s visit to Cuba will end with an official farewell ceremony at José Martí Airport.
Pope Benedict confirmed that he would visit the two countries on Dec. 12 , saying, “With this strong desire, and supported by the aid of divine providence … I have the intention to undertake an apostolic journey before holy Easter to Mexico and Cuba to proclaim the word of Christ.”
He said his planned trip was based on his conviction that the present is “a precious time to evangelize” in Latin America and the Caribbean.