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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Preparations are underway for the pope’s visit to Cuba this weekend and the island’s foreign minister said the country can’t wait for Francis’ historic journey.

Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba’s foreign minister, said Wednesday he wants to make the pope’s trip to Cuba memorable. He didn’t elaborate on that, but it’s widely believed the pope will not focus only on religious freedom in Cuba, but also on human rights and democratic freedom.

Aboard the Popemobile, Francis gave his last weekly public audience at the Vatican – taking a moment to kiss babies and address the faithful before embarking on his first trip to Cuba and the United States on Saturday.

Pope Francis said he’s approaching his trip with a great sense of hope as he prepares for to across the Atlantic.

Earlier, the pontiff met with the environmental ministers for 28 European countries, urging them to enact new policies to fight environmental degradation and poverty, saying the two are clearly linked.

In Cuba, the pope will meet with leader Raul Castro. He will celebrate mass in Havana’s Revolution Square and travel to the Cuban cities of Holguin and Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island.

Rodriguez said the communist country, which was once officially an atheist state, is ready to receive the first Latin American pope and the third pope to visit the island in the last 17 years.

“Our country is ready for the pope’s trip,” he said. “We are working hard to make the trip memorable to give Francis the warm welcome he deserves”

In Miami’s Little Havana, the leader of the local Cuban Democracy Movement Ramon Saul Sanchez began a hunger strike today, giving up food, to call attention to human rights violations on the island.

“I will begin a fast of conscience without any food, just water, to appeal directly to the pope on two issues,” said Saul Sanchez.

Sanchez said those issues are recognizing Cuba’s civil society and stopping human rights abuses against the Ladies in White, an opposition group on the island.

The Cuban Democracy Movement is also planning a flotilla from Marathon to a point near Cuban coast on Sunday when the pope celebrates mass in Havana.

Eliott Rodriguez

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