Pope may visit Cuba, Mexico next spring

The announcement marks the first word from the Vatican of a possible foreign trip for the 84-year-old pontiff next year.

Last Updated: Nov 10, 2011, 19:12 PM IST

Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI is considering visiting Cuba and Mexico next spring and will make a final decision shortly, the Vatican said Thursday.

The announcement marks the first word from the Vatican of a possible foreign trip for the 84-year-old pontiff next year, and signals that despite his age and increasing frailty Benedict still intends to travel far to meet the world`s Catholics.

In recent days, the Vatican asked its papal envoys in Cuba and Mexico to inform religious and political authorities that Benedict is studying a "concrete project" to visit the two countries, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

Benedict has focused his travels mostly in Europe, part of his bid to reawaken the faith on a continent where Christianity has fallen by the wayside. He did visit Brazil, the world`s largest Roman Catholic country, in 2007, and has said he hoped to return there in 2013 for World Youth Day.

And he has a trip to Benin coming up later this month, his second to Africa in his six-year pontificate.
Lombardi said Latin America`s Spanish-speaking countries have long wanted a visit of their own, particularly Mexican Catholics, who got four visits from Pope John Paul II — including the very first foreign visit by the new pontiff in 1979 that marked the first-ever visit by a pope to Mexico.

John Paul also traveled to Cuba in a historic 1998 visit.

Bureau Report