(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the President of Cuba, Raul Castro, on Sunday morning in private audience at the Vatican. A note from the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, explains that Castro arrived at 9:30 AM, and stayed a little over an hour, during the course of which the Pope and the President spent considerable time in conversation in the Holy Father’s study inside the Paul VI Hall.
The meeting between the Pope and the President lasted over 50 minutes, and was very friendly. The President told reporters before leaving the Vatican that he had thanked the Holy Father for the active role he played in favor of improving relations between Cuba and the United States of America, and also presented to the Pope the sentiments of the Cuban people – sentiments of expectation and preparation for the Holy Father’s visit the island in September.
The note also reports a significant exchange of gifts: the President of Cuba gave the Pope a precious commemorative medal of the Cathedral of Havana, and a framed work of contemporary art, which depicts a large Ccross composed of the relics of wrecked barges, before which is present a migrant in prayer. The Cuban artist Kcho, who was present, told the Pope that he was inspired by Francis’ great commitment to bringing the plight of migrants and refugees to the attention of the wider world, especially through the Pope’s visit to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. The Pope gave the President a copy of his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium, and a large medallion which represents St. Martin in the act of covering the poor with his cloak. The Pope noted that he was particularly happy to give this last gift, as it recalls not only the duty to help and protect the poor, but also actively to promote dignity.
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