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Rome Reports

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The other times Fidel and Raúl Castro met with a pope

Although Cuba and the Vatican never fully cut off diplomatic relations, Fidel Castro's visit to Pope John Paul II in 1996 was still a historic moment.  Two years later, in January 1998, the dictator greeted the Pope at the Havana airport, marking the start of a five-day stay at the island. As a sign of goodwill, Castro allowed December 25th to again become a civil holiday. It took 14 years, but in March 2012, another successor of St. Peter visited the island. That time it was Fidel's brother, Raúl, who waited on the tarmac. RAí?L CASTRO "Cuba welcomes you with affection and respect. We are honored with your presence. Here, you will find a solid and educated country that's committed to reach justice and has endured great sacrifices.â? As a sign of courtesy and respect, Raúl Castro also attended the two masses Pope Benedict XVI celebrated on the island and met with him at the Palace of the Revolution. Further, Good Friday also became a national holiday after the visit. Before the end of the trip, Fidel made a rare public appearance and greeted Pope Benedict XVI. "I have followed everything on television.â? "Here you always treated me well. I have fond memories.â? During their encounter, Fidel asked the Pope to recommend some books for him, and the Pope sent him several. Now, Raúl will visit the Vatican and in September, Pope Francis will travel to Havana. It remains to be seen whether the third papal visit will prompt another holiday to be reinstated.  JMB/ATO RR ? - PR Up:GRT