Pope to visit Mexico, Cuba

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and bishops and Catholics from the region when he visits Mexico and Cuba in late March.

He will also greet bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean as well as pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Cuba.

It will be his third visit to the Americas after the United States in 2008 and Brazil in 2007.

After a 14-hour flight from Rome to Mexico, the pope is scheduled to be in Leon, Mexico, March 23-26. After a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Cuba, he will be in Santiago de Cuba and Havana March 26-28. He will arrive back in Rome after a 10-hour flight March 29.

During his trip, Pope Benedict will celebrate three outdoor Masses, including one marking the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba.

In Mexico, he will have a special meeting with children and a vespers service with bishops from Latin America, and in Cuba he will make a private visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

Here is the schedule for the trip as released by the Vatican Jan. 31. Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses:

Friday, March 23 (Rome, Leon)

-- 9:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m.), Departure from Rome's Fiumicino airport for Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico.

-- 4:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m.), Arrival ceremony at Guanajuato's International Airport. Speech by pope.

Saturday, March 24 (Leon, Mexico)

-- 8 a.m. (10 a.m.), Mass in private in chapel of Leon's Miraflores College, where the pope will be staying.

-- 6 p.m. (8 p.m.), Courtesy visit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in the at the Guanajuato state government house of Conde Rul.

-- 6:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.), Greeting to children gathered at Peace Square. Remarks by pope.

, March 25 (Leon)

-- 10 a.m. (12 p.m.), Mass at Leon's Bicentennial Park. Homily by pope. Recitation of the Angelus. Remarks by pope.

-- 6 p.m. (8 p.m.), Celebration of vespers with bishops from Mexico and Latin America in Leon's cathedral. Speech by pope.

Monday, March 26 (Leon, Santiago de Cuba)

-- 9 a.m. (11 a.m.), Farewell ceremony at Guanajuato's International Airport. Speech by pope.

-- 9:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m.), Departure for Santiago de Cuba.

-- 2 p.m. (2 p.m.), Arrival ceremony at Santiago de Cuba's Antonio Maceo International Airport. Speech by pope.

-- 5:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.), Outdoor Mass celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square. Homily by pope.

, March 27 (Santiago de Cuba, Havana)

-- 9:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m.), Visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

-- 10:30 a.m. (10:30 a.m.), Departure from Santiago de Cuba's Antonio Maceo International Airport for Havana.

-- 12 p.m. (12 p.m.), Arrival at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

-- 5:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.), Courtesy visit with Cuba's President Raul Castro in Havana's Revolution Palace.

-- 7:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.), Meeting and dinner with Cuban bishops and the papal entourage at the apostolic nunciature.

Wednesday, March 28 (Havana)

-- 9 a.m. (9 a.m.), Mass in Havana's Revolution Square. Homily by pope.

-- 4:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m.), Farewell ceremony at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

Speech by pope.

-- 5 p.m. (5 p.m.), Departure for Rome.

, March 29 (Rome)

-- 10:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m.), Arrival at Rome's Ciampino airport.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970