LOS ANGELES, Calif. – His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will make his first-ever visit to Cuba from March 26-28, 2012.
The papal visit – the first since John Paul II’s 1998 arrival – is scheduled to include trips to the major Cuban cities of Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The visit will feature a mass conducted in Havana’s world-famous Jose Marti Revolution Square.
Benedict XVI’s visit is timed to coincide with nationwide celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of The Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint.
Lingering misconceptions aside, the fact is that Americans are today welcomed and encouraged to legally travel to, and tour throughout, this fabled island paradise.
For Benedict’s visit, this ease of travel is especially true for American Catholics as well as members of the news media. Both of those groups have been granted special travel status for the papal trip. The media enjoys these privileges on other occasions as well, but this March represents a rare and sacred opportunity for Catholics.
“American Catholics need to be present to support their brothers in Cuba,” said Peter Sanchez, a Cuban native and the President of California-based Cuba Tours and Travel. “Every interaction that Cubans have with an American represents an opportunity for change and hope.”
Sanchez’s company is licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Cuban government to facilitate travel for Americans seeking to visit Cuba. CTT has been in business for twelve years and has rooms reserved in four-and-five star Havana hotels during Benedict XVI’s visit.