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First preparatory meeting for Pope Francis's visit to Cuba

Havana, May 14 (EFE).- Representatives of the Holy See and the Cuban government concluded their first meetings in Cuba, to prepare for Pope Francis's first visit to the country in September.

The Pope's visit will be particularly significant because of the mediating role he played in the thaw in relations between Havana and Washington earlier this year.

The Cuban delegation to the three day meeting starting Monday included Cuba's Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez and the head of the Cuban Communist Party Office of Religious Affairs Caridad Diego, according to the Cuban Foreign Ministry webpage.

The Vatican delegation was led by Alberto Gasbarri, head of the Organization of Papal Trips.

They were joined by Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio Garcia, and Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, representing the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba.

The meeting was "cordial and productive" and reflected the "good communication" that exists between the Holy See, the Catholic Church and the Cuban State, who "shared their interests in guaranteeing the success of the papal visit," according to the webpage.

The Pope's visit will coincide with the 80th anniversary of uninterrupted diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Holy See.

The Pope is expected to visit Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba before he leaves for the United States.

It will be the third papal visit to Cuba in 17 years, following Pope John Paul II in January 1998 and Pope Benedict XVI in March 2012.

The preparatory meetings in Havana began a day after Cuban President Raul Castro met with the Pope in the Vatican, to thank him personally for his role in the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. EFE

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