HAVANA — Pope Francis has added a stop in Cuba to his planned trip to the United States this September, a visit that will highlight his role as a peace-broker between the two countries and offer a boost to their efforts to mend relations after 50 years of rancor.
Francis will make a Cuba landing in late September before his previously scheduled stops in Philadelphia, New York and Washington, where he is expected to meet with President Obama and address Congress.
No further details of Francis’s Cuba plans were given by the Vatican on Wednesday. At a news conference in Brussels, where he has been meeting with European Union officials, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez confirmed the pope’s visit. But there was no further statement from the Cuban government, and the island’s tightly controlled state media made no mention of the news until late Wednesday afternoon.
Whatever his plans, Francis will almost certainly be received warmly by a Cuban public that has shown a great deal of enthusiasm for papal visits in the past, if less so for the habit of disciplined church attendance.
With near-universal support among ordinary Cubans for reconciliation with the United States, Francis will give an important political boost to the only significant independent institution on the island — Cuba’s Catholic Church — and its role in nudging communist authorities toward broader reforms.