Vatican City, 10 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in private audience the president of the Republic of Cuba, Raul Castro Ruz. The meeting took place in the Pope's study adjacent to Paul VI Hall.
Upon arrival, at 9.30 a.m., the president was received by the Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, accompanied by his substitute, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, and the secretary for Relations with States, Bishop Paul Richard Gallagher. A personal meeting with the Pope then took place in the study, which lasted more than 50 minutes and was very cordial.
The president, as he declared before leaving the Vatican, thanked the Holy Father for his active role in improving relations between Cuba and the United States. He also expressed the sentiments of the Cuban people as they await and prepare for his upcoming visit to the island in September.
The Pope and the president then proceeded to the adjacent room for the presentation of the delegation accompanying Raul Castro, composed of around a dozen figures including the deputy prime minister, the minister for foreign affairs and the ambassador to the Holy See.
The exchange of gifts was very meaningful. The president offered the Pope a valuable commemorative medal of the Cathedral of Havana and a contemporary painting, depicting a large cross made up of wrecked boats, with a migrant in prayer in the foreground. The artist, the Cuban Kcho, was present and explained to the Pope that it was inspired by his great efforts to raise awareness in the world of the problems faced by migrants and refugees, beginning with his famous trip to Lampedusa. The Pope gave the president a copy of his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” and a large medallion depicting St. Martin covering the poor man with his cape. The Holy Father observed that he was particularly keen to give this gift, as it recalled the commitment not only to protecting the poor but also to promoting dignity.
President Raul Castro and his delegation left the Vatican shortly after 10.30 a.m.