The President of Cuba, Raul Castro met this morning with Pope Francis and thanked for the contribution the leader of the Roman Catholic Church had in rekindling relations between Cuba and the United States, the Vatican City announced.
The atmosphere during this one-hour meeting was friendly. Pope Francis and Castro discussed the forthcoming visit of the head of the Roman Catholic Church to Cuba, which is planned for September, and after which the Pope will visit the United States.
“Pope Francis gave Castro a medal depicting St. Martin, an officer who is in the Christian tradition known for giving his coat to the poor. The Pope told Castro that the medal should remind him to protect the poor”, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
Lombardi stated that Castro gave the Pope the painting of the Cuban artist Alexis Leyva Machado, who was inspired by illegal immigrants coming to the island of Lampedusa.
This was the first visit of the Cuban President Raul Castro to the Vatican, AFP reminds.
Castro, who came to Vatican from Moscow, where he attended the celebration of 70 years of victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, today will meet with the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, as well.
During the meeting, the Cuban president thanked pontiff for his role of a mediator, which helped to thaw relations between Cuba and the United States.
The Pope personally mediated in resuming diplomatic ties between Cuba and the US, it was said earlier from the Vatican.
It was stated in today’s announcement that the Pope had sent the letters to the Cuban and the American president, and that the Vatican received delegations from both countries in October.
Pope Benedict XVI visited Havana in 2012, and his predecessor John Paul II in 1998.