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Rome Reports

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Pope's trip to Cuba: What to expect?

From its politics to its culture, Cuba has always made headlines. Now that Pope Francis is planning his trip there, the island will be given an international spotlight.  It's been a long journey--From John Paul II to Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.  MICHAEL DRIESSEN Professor, John Cabot University  "He has always positioned himself in continuity with the popes who came before him, even as he does things in a different way and opens up the papacy to different possibilities.â?  The situation in Cuba has changed over the years, as has its stance on religion. Whereas before, following the revolution, it was quite hostile towards the Catholic Church, priests and nuns, now, it has given it more flexibility.  The island has a population of about 11 million people. The Church estimates that about 65 percent is Catholic, but only about 5 percent attend Mass regularly.  Even so, Professor Michael Driessen, from Rome's John Cabot University says, one cannot underestimate the role of religion in  social and political life.  MICHAEL DRIESSEN Professor, John Cabot University  "Even if we said that it is declining, at no time in the last 50 years has religion been at the forefront of global politics.â?    When John Paul II first visited Cuba, a different Castro led the small nation. Now, Pope Francis will visit a different Cuba, also led by a different Castro.  It will mark a new chapter for the island and more than likely also strengthen the faith of Cuban Catholics.  KLH  RR -VM -PR Up: FV