Havana – Cuban President Raul Castro met with the head of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., who led a delegation of religious leaders on a visit to the Communist-ruled island, state television said.
Castro and the Rev. Michael Kinnamon discussed working relations between the U.S. organization and the Cuban Council of Churches, according to the news report.
The U.S. and Cuban religious organizations "have joined forces" to achieve the end of Washington's 49-year-old economic embargo against the island, the normalization of bilateral ties and the release of five Cuban intelligence agents jailed in the United States, the report said.
Also present for Wednesday's meeting were Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Cuban Council of Churches heads Marcial Hernandez and Pablo Oden Marichal and the Communist Party's top official for religious affairs, Caridad Diego.
Kinnamon's encounter with Castro came hours after he and a colleague visited U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year sentence in a Cuban prison.
"We have concerns for his health, but he's in good spirits," Kinnamon said of the 62-year-old prisoner, who is reported to have lost more than 100 pounds (45 kilos) during his confinement and to be suffering from various medical problems.
Gross was arrested in Havana on Dec. 3, 2009, in possession of satellite communications equipment he said he was planning to distribute among Cuba's Jewish community.
Havana says he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion on the Communist-ruled island. In August, Cuba's highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on Gross in March.
Kinnamon and his delegation also spent time Wednesday with relatives of the five Cuban intelligence agents jailed in the United States.
The "Cuban Five" - Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez - were arrested in 1998 and convicted three years later by a federal jury in Miami.
Though one of the group, Rene Gonzalez, completed his custodial sentence in October and was released, he has not been permitted to go home, as the federal courts say he must serve his three-year probation on U.S. soil.