Havana – Cuba's Catholic bishops on Thursday issued a call for rapprochement and reconciliation among Cubans during the coming year, in keeping with the 400th anniversary of the finding of the image of the Virgin of Caridad del Cobre and a planned visit by Pope Benedict XVI.
"Reunion and reconciliation among Cubans should be one fruit of the Jubilee Year as a result, in each one of us, of a change in mentality and attitude toward our neighbor," the bishops conference said in a statement.
The pontiff will come to the Communist-ruled island as "a pilgrim of 'La Caridad'" within the framework of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the country's patron saint.
The Holy Father will announce the exact dates of his visit on Monday during a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on the occasion of the bicentennials of several Latin American countries, bishops conference spokesman Jose Felix Perez told reporters in Havana.
Also scheduled to be present at that Mass will be Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Cuba's Catholic primate, the spokesman said.
So far, only scanty details about the papal visit are known, but according to information imparted by The Vatican to the Cuban bishops, it will be "brief."
Also, it is forecast that one of the central events of the visit will take place at the Santuario del Cobre, in the eastern part of the island, which normally houses the image of the Virgin of Charity.
Since last year, Church authorities have been taking the image on a pilgrimage throughout the country and currently it is in Havana where that journey will come to an end at the end of this month and thereafter image will be returned to its habitual sanctuary.
Benedict XVI's trip will be the second by a pope to Cuba after John Paul II's historic visit in 1998.