Pope Benedict May Visit Cuba Next Year

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Few pastoral visits caused as much controversy as Pope John Paul II's 1998 visit to Cuba. Catholic exiles worried that the Pope's visit to the island would further legitimize Fidel Castro's dictatorship, and images of the two shaking hands was not a welcome site for many in Miami.

Now, the Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict XVI may visit Cuba next year.

Pope John Paul's visit to Cuba revealed deep divisions in Miami's exile community. Then Archbishop of Miami John Favalora had planned a pilgrimage from Miami to Havana by cruise ship to mark the Pontiff's visit, but the plan was scrapped due to protest from hardliners. Even Gloria Estefan refused the church's invitation to sing in Havana for the Pope.

The visit lead to strengthened ties between Communist Cuba and the Vatican, and several other high ranking Vatican officials have visited since.

Now, almost a decade and a half latter Pope Benedict has announced he may visit the country in 2012 along with a trip to Mexico.

"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," reports the AP.

The visit would likely occur sometime in the spring. It would carry further significance as 84-year-old Benedict has rarely traveled outside of Europe.

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