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Pope Francis calls for Cuban 'revolution of tenderness'

Pope Francis has celebrated Mass at Cuba's holiest shrine in the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba's holiest shrine in the shadow of the Sierra Maestra mountains.

The Pope used his third and last Mass on the island to call for a "revolution of tenderness" and renewal of faith.

Pope Francis prays inside the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity in El Cobre, Cuba. Credit: Reuters
Pope Francis talks with children at the sanctuary. Credit: Reuters

Pope meets former Cuban president Fidel Castro

Pope meets former Cuban president Fidel Castro Credit: Reuters

Pope Francis has met Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro as part of his nine-day trip to Cuba and the US.

The Pope called on the 89-year-old former president at his home, a Vatican spokesman said, and gave him several of his official papal writings, as well as two books on spirituality and a book and CD on the writings of Father Armando Llorente, a Jesuit priest who taught Castro in secondary school.

Fidel Castro led the Cuban government from 1959 until he resigned for health reasons, provisionally in 2006 and then definitively in 2008, handing power to his older brother, Raul.

Earlier on Sunday the Pope celebrated Mass in Havana's Revolution Square.


Kerry: Cuba embassy reopening 'a truly historic moment'

US Secretary of State John Kerry at the flag-raising ceremony at the embassy

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the reopening of the recently restored American Embassy in Havana "is a truly historic moment".

He said: "As we prepare to raise the United States flag here at our embassy in Havana, symbolising the reestablishment of diplomatic relations after 54 years, this is also the first time that a United States Secretary of State has been to Cuba since 1945".

It comes after the two countries formally renewed diplomatic relations and upgraded their diplomatic missions to embassies almost a month ago.


US removes Cuba from state sponsors of terror list

The US and Cuba are working together to restore diplomatic ties. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

The US has formally dropped Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism as the country continues efforts to restore diplomatic ties with the Communist-ruled island.

President Barack Obama had announced on April 14th he would drop the former Cold War rival from the list, initiating a 45-day review period for Congress that expired today.

Obama ordered a review of Cuba's status on the terrorism list as part of a landmark policy shift.

The move followed a meeting in December between the US President and Cuba's leader Raul Castro where they announced they would seek to restore diplomatic relations that Washington severed in 1961, and work toward a broader normalisation of ties.

Cuba had cited its listing as a state terrorism sponsor, which had been in place since 1982, as an obstacle to the re-establishing of diplomatic relations.

The two sides have held four rounds of high level negotiations since December and say they are closing in on a deal to reopen embassies in Havana and Washington.

Pope meets Castro ahead of Cuba visit

Pope Francis has met with Cuban President Raul Castro today, ahead of his planned visit to the island nation later this year.

Pope Francis has met with Cuban President Raul Castro Credit: REUTERS/Gregorio

The pope granted Castro a rare Sunday audience at the Vatican as the Cuban President passed through Rome on his way back from Moscow.

Although the issues discussed by the Pope and Castro during their meeting were not disclosed the pontiff could be heard telling his visitor there was a "need to work together to fight poverty around the world" during a subsequent photo call.

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