Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI is planning to visit Cuba and Mexico in spring 2012, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said on Thursday, adding that communist Cuba "wanted to see the pope very much."
"The nuncios of Mexico and Cuba have been charged in recent days with informing the highest religious and political leaders in the two countries that the pope is examining a concrete project to visit," he said in a statement.
Cuba "is a country that wanted to see the pope very much. It has never forgotten John Paul II's historic visit" in 1998, he said. "The pope's visit will be a great encouragement, particularly on the 400-year anniversary of the Virgin of Charity," the patroness of Cuba, reports AFP.
"The Church and the whole population are living through an important moment in their history," he added. Lombardi said the 84-year-old pope had been advised not to travel to parts of Mexico because of the altitude but said he would probably visit the capital.
Benedict will be 85 years old by the time he makes the journeys.
Lombardi also said that the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America "have wanted to have a (papal) visit for them" and that Mexico had been singled out because "it is the most populous country among them".
The pope had visited Portuguese-speaking Brazil in May 2007 for a conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops. The projected trips to Latin America are the first announced travel plans for the pope next year.
Lombardi added that no plans were currently under discussion to visit Lebanon, which had been mentioned as a possible destination for a papal trip.