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Pope Francis To Visit Cuba Later This Year

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Pope Francis has added another stop before his upcoming trip to the Americas.

The Vatican has confirmed that the pope will visit Cuba.

“I am able to confirm that the Holy Father Francis, having received and accepted the invitation from the civil authorities and bishops of Cuba, has decided to pay a visit to the island before his arrival in the United States for the trip announced some time ago,” wrote Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi in a statement.

No other details of Francis’ trip to Cuba were released.

The pope has been credited with assisting in the thaw between U.S. and Cuban relations. He wrote to leaders of both countries and the Vatican hosted their delegations for the final negotiations.  It is expected that Francis will redouble his efforts to normalize U.S.- Cuban relations.

He is, after all, a major world figure and one that can bring people together, rather than divide them,” said Dr. Jorge Duany, director of Florida International University’s Cuba Research Institute.

Click here to watch Gary Nelson’s report. 

Francis is expected to deliver a message he has delivered before – in a book he wrote while a Bishop in Argentina – but this time it will be delivered on Cuban soil.

“He was pretty clear about the unsustainability and inhumanity of a Marxist, Communist system,” said Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski.

Francis is scheduled to visit the states during the last week of September. The plans call for him to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington, address Congress and the United Nations in New York, and attend a rally for families in Philadelphia.

Francis will become the third pope to visit Cuba. St. John Paul II visited the island nation in 1998 and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI followed up with a 2012 trip during which he voiced the Vatican’s long-standing position that the U.S. embargo was unjust and only hurt the most vulnerable on the island.

Archbishop Wenski believes Francis’s chief reason for addressing a joint session of Congress is to urge an end to the embargo.  Only Congress can lift the embargo entirely.  Francis believes an end to the embargo will ease the suffering of the Cuban people and accelerate human rights reforms.

CBS News contributed to this report.

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