On Jan. 2, the episcopal conferences of Mexico and Cuba published separate press communiqués announcing details of Pope Benedict XVI's forthcoming visit to those countries, due to take place from March 23-28. The Pope had expressed his intention to make an apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba during a Mass celebrated in the Vatican Basilica on December 12, on which day Catholics mark the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas.
The note issued by the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate explained that the Pope will arrive at the airport of Leon in the State of Guanajuato on the afternoon of Friday March 23. He will be greeted there by Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico, by members of the episcopal conference and by Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin of Leon. During his stay, the Pope will lodge in the residence of the Miraflores College in Leon.
On Saturday March 24, he will travel to the Casa del Conde Rul in the city of Guanajuato, the headquarters of the state government, where he will hold an official meeting with President Calderon. After the meeting the pope will greet and bless children and faithful gathered in the city's Plaza de la Paz.
On the morning of Sunday March 25, Benedict XVI will preside at Mass in the Parque Bicentenario in the municipality of Silao, at the foot of a hill known as the Cerro del Cubilete at the top of which is a statue of Christ the King. Following the ceremony he is due to meet with representatives from the 91 dioceses of Mexico. That evening the pontiff will preside at Vespers in the cathedral of Leon with Mexican bishops and representatives of other Latin American episcopates, to whom he will address a message.
On the morning of Monday, March 26, the pope will take his official leave of the civil and religious authorities of Mexico at the airport of Leon, before flying to Cuba.
The note published by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba explains that the pope is due to arrive in Santiago de Cuba in the early afternoon of March 26. He will be welcomed by Raul Castro, president of Cuba, by members of the episcopal conference and by Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez of Santiago. The leader of the Catholic Church will then travel by open-top car to the Plaza de la Revolución, where he will celebrate a Mass for the Solemnity of the Annunciation. After the Mass, the Pope will move on to the nearby mining town of El Cobre, where he will lodge in a residence for priests.
On the morning of March 27, the Pope will make a private visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, where he will pray before the image of the patroness of Cuba. He will then go to the airport of Santiago to fly to the capital city Havana, where he is due to arrive at midday. He will be welcomed there by Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, and by other religious and civil authorities.
That afternoon, the pope will hold an official meeting with President Raul Castro, then meet with Cuban bishops at the apostolic nunciature.
On the morning of Wednesday, March 28, the Pope will preside at Mass in the Plaza de la Revolución "Jose Marti." In the early afternoon he will be taken by open-top car to the airport of Havana where, following a departure ceremony, he will board his return flight for Rome.