Vatican City, May 11, 2015 / 11:40 am
Pope Francis' historic trip to Cuba will take place Sept. 19-22, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Cuba has announced.
The dates of the trip were released in a May 11 statement from the Cuban bishops.
The announcement came one day after Pope Francis met privately with Cuban president Raul Castro at the Vatican. Castro said after the meeting that he "will start praying again and return to the Church" if the Pope continues what he has been doing.
News of the Pope's visit to Cuba – which will take place directly before he travels to the United States – had been confirmed by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. April 22.
Pope Francis will be the third consecutive Pope to visit the Caribbean island: St. John Paul II did so in 1998, and Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
The visit comes at a historic time, as Cuba and the United States work to re-establish diplomatic relations for the first time in decades. The Vatican was instrumental in the buildup to last December's announcement of the effort to normalize relations between the two nations.
From Cuba, Pope Francis will travel to the United States, where he will address Congress and the United Nations General Assembly, visit the White House and attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.