Pope Said to Seek Meeting With Ailing Fidel Castro on Cuba Trip

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Claudio Peri/ANSA via AP
  • Francis admired Castro's revolution initially, biographer says
  • U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations helped by Pope's mediation

Pope Francis will hold a private meeting with Fidel Castro during his visit to Cuba later this month if the former president’s health allows it, according to three Vatican officials with knowledge of the matter.

Because of Castro’s frailty the time and place of any encounter would probably be decided with little advance notice, according to a senior official involved in organizing the Argentine Pope’s trip to Cuba and the U.S. The official Vatican program for the visit currently has no mention of such an appointment and a Vatican spokesman declined to comment on the subject.

The 78-year-old pontiff, who acted as a mediator between Cuba and the U.S., will visit the island between Sept. 19 and Sept. 22 before flying on to Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Castro, 89, who met both of Francis’s predecessors, was replaced as president by his brother Raul, whom Francis will meet on 20 September, after suffering a health crisis in 2006.

“If Castro is up to it, I fully expect them to meet for a private talk,” said papal biographer Austen Ivereigh. Francis “sympathized with the original aims of the Cuban revolution and was very supportive of the desire for economic sovereignty, for social justice. He was deeply disappointed when it went communist.”

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