Pope Benedict XVI is preparing for a trip to Mexico and Cuba in the spring of 2012, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Thursday.

The respective papal nuncios in Mexico and Cuba have already informed the governments and Catholic prelates in both countries about the pope's plans, the spokesman said.

The exact dates and itinerary will be announced in the near future, Lombardi said.

Benedict XVI has made one visit to Latin America since he became pontiff, traveling to Portuguese-speaking Brazil in 2007 for a regional conference of bishops.

The hemisphere's Spanish-speaking countries have been lobbying the Vatican for a papal visit.

Lombardi cited the Mexican people's "well known" desire that Benedict XVI make an appearance in the world's largest Spanish-speaking nation and said the pope wants to fulfill that wish.

The Mexican capital's high altitude makes it an "unadvisable" destination for the 84-year-old Benedict, but the Vatican will seek alternative sites in Mexico, the spokesman said.

Recalling Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Cuba in 1998, Lombardi said Benedict XVI wants to be with the Cuban people at this moment of change on the island, where relations between the Catholic Church and the Communist government are at a high point.