There was no sign of the historically frosty relations between Cuba and the Vatican as the Pope arrived for a three-day visit to the communist-led island. Benedict XVI was warmly welcomed by the Cuban leader, Raul Castro.
His trip comes at a time of change in Cuba and many hope his presence will accelerate the pace of economic and political reforms being gradually introduced by the leadership.
In recent times the Catholic Church has acted as a mediator on fraught issues such as political prisoners and protests by dissidents. The 84-year-old pontiff has supported Castro’s reforms and urged him to move faster and go further.
However, dissidents have expressed disappointment that, despite their requests, the Vatican has not scheduled any meetings with them during the Pope’s visit.