Pope Francis Meets With Former Cuban President Fidel Castro in an 'Informal Gathering'
Pope Francis spent part of Sunday meeting with the former president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, after delivering Mass in the Plaza de la Revoluci n on the Caribbean island, a Vatican spokesperson tells PEOPLE.
The meeting took place at the communist leader’s private home in Havana, and lasted just over a half hour. The pair discussed “global issues” and exchanged books, the spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi says.
“The pope’s visit to Commander Fidel Castro took place this morning after Mass. It was a small group at Castro’s residence,” Lombardi says, adding that the get together was “very informal.”
The 89-year-old Cuba’s wife attended, as well as children and grandchildren of the family.
The meeting between the two leaders was not on the official agenda for the Pope’s four day trip to the island nation, but came after rumors began circulating earlier this week.
Castro hoped to reflect on big issues facing the world during the conversation, Lombardi told TIME.
The pontiff landed in the Cuban capital Saturday afternoon after a 12-hour trip from Rome. The visit comes just ahead of the pope’s six-day stay in the United States, as detailed in PEOPLE’s current cover story.
The religious leader was greeted at the airport by Cuban President and Castro’s son Raul Castro, as well as representatives of the country’s Catholic Church.
“Providence today enables me to come to this beloved nation, following the indelible path opened by the unforgettable apostolic journeys which my two predecessors – Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI – made to this island,” Francis said during his reception, Saturday.
The pontiff also pushed for a continued “culture of encounter and dialogue” between the United States and the country.
• Reporting by LESTER JIMINEZ
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