The Holy See’s No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will go to Cuba, the highest level visit by a Vatican official to the Communist-run state during Pope Benedict XVI’s tenure.
Vatican officials, confirming Italian news reports Friday evening about the visit, indicated that dates and other details for the trip by Bertone, an Italian prelate who is Holy See secretary of state, would be announced soon.
It was not immediately known if Bertone would aim to pay a call on ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who welcomed Pope John Paul II to Havana.
The Caribbean island is approaching the 10th anniversary of his historic pilgrimage there in January 1998.
Many predicted that John Paul’s pilgrimage would trigger changes. John Paul urged Castro to increase freedom on the island for both the Church and society, and denounced U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba.
But in the decade that has passed, Cuba’s Catholic Church has made only some gains. Catholic leaders can speak or write in state media at times, but religious schools remain closed as they have been since the early 1960s when hundreds of foreign priests were expelled.