‘Pope meeting with Fidel Castro is a possibility'
Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI is
"available" to meet Fidel Castro during his trip to Cuba this
month but will not hold talks with dissidents who occupied a
Catholic church this week, the Vatican said on Friday.
Benedict XVI will travel to Cuba from March 26-28, where
he will see President Raul Castro, and while a meeting with
his brother and former longtime leader Fidel has not been
scheduled, the Vatican has not ruled it out.
"It's a possibility, it could happen. If Fidel Castro
wants to meet the Holy Father, he will be available," Vatican
spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
Rumours have been circulating for months over a possible
encounter, and sources close to Fidel Castro, who is in
failing health, have said the 85-year-old symbol of communist
revolution wants to meet the pontiff.
Lombardi said that Benedict XVI would not meet with a
group of dissident Cubans who peacefully occupied a church
this week demanding that the pope push Havana leaders for
political freedom during his visit.
"It's not in the programme," he said.
The dissidents were escorted out of the church yesterday
after the city's Cardinal Jaime Ortega asked them to leave,
describing their sit-in as "illegitimate and
Benedict's visit will be the first by a pope since John
Paul II's landmark 1998 trip, which led to a thaw in long
frozen church-state relations.