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Members of the media gather along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia during a July 9 preview tour for Pope Francis' trip to the U.S. in September.

Vatican City

Pope’s visits to Cuba, U.S. to highlight families, charity, tolerance

By CINDY WOODEN, Catholic News Service | Published July 23, 2015

VATICAN CITY (CNS)—In word and deed, Pope Francis will take his vision of a Catholic’s approach to family life, parish life, charity, economics, immigration and good governance to Cuba and the United States during a Sept. 19-27 visit.

Visiting both Cuba and the United States on the same trip not only acknowledges his role in encouraging detente between them, but will give Pope Francis an opportunity to demonstrate that while different political and cultural challenges face Catholics in both countries, the Gospel and its values are the same.

On June 30, the Vatican published the detailed schedule of Pope Francis’ Sept. 19-22 visit to Cuba and his Sept. 22-27 visit to the United States.

For Pope Francis, one of the key values Catholics in the U.S. and Cuba share is the obligation to “go out,” proclaiming the Gospel and bringing God’s mercy to the poorest and most disadvantaged people.

The standard of living in the United States may be exponentially higher than in Cuba, but in Pope Francis’ vision that only increases the responsibility of U.S. Catholics to reach out and to share. He will demonstrate what he means when he meets homeless people in Washington Sept. 24, children and immigrant families at a Catholic school in Harlem when he visits New York Sept. 25, and prisoners Sept. 27 in Philadelphia.

The closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families will follow the papal meeting with prisoners. The World Meeting of Families international congress Sept. 22-25 and the celebration of families with the pope Sept. 26-27 were the initial reason for the papal visit.

With the Catholic Church’s constant concern for promoting strong families and with the world Synod of Bishops on the family set to start one week after the papal visit, marriage and family life are expected to be topics throughout the pope’s visit to both Cuba and the United States.

Long before the Vatican released the full trip itinerary, it had confirmed certain parts of it: U.S. President Barack Obama will welcome the pope to the White House Sept. 23; that afternoon, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and canonize Blessed Junipero Serra; the pope will address a joint meeting of Congress Sept. 24, becoming the first pope to do so; and Pope Francis will address the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 25. It is thought the pope may bring up some of the points he made in his recent environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” given that world nations will come together just a few months later for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in the hopes of reaching global agreement on reducing greenhouse gases.

The pope also is expected to emphasize the contributions of U.S. Catholics to society, defend religious liberty and support the church’s right to uphold its teaching, including in its employment practices. He will use his visit to ground zero in New York as an occasion for an interreligious gathering.

The pope will spend three days in Cuba visiting three different cities, including the popular Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

He will hold the usual meetings with President Raul Castro, young people, families and religious as well as celebrate Mass and vespers all three days. But he also will bless the cities of Holguin and Santiago de Cuba—blessing Holguin from a panoramic hilltop and pilgrimage site called Cross Hill.

It will be his third visit to the Americas after Brazil in 2013 and Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay in July, and his 10th trip abroad since his election in 2013.

Here is the schedule for the trip. All times are local unless otherwise indicated.

Saturday, Sept. 19 (Rome, Havana)

– 10:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m. EDT), Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Havana.

– 4:05 p.m. Arrival ceremony at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport. Speech by pope.

Sunday, Sept. 20 (Havana)

– 9 a.m. Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square. Homily by pope. Recitation of the Angelus.

– 4 p.m. Courtesy visit with Cuba’s President Raul Castro in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution.

– 5:15 p.m. Celebration of vespers with priests, religious and seminarians in Havana’s cathedral. Homily by pope.

– 6:30 p.m. Greeting to young people at the Father Felix Varela cultural center in Havana. Remarks by pope.

Monday, Sept. 21 (Havana, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, El Cobre)

– 8 a.m. Departure by air for Holguin, Cuba.

– 9:20 a.m. Arrival at Holguin’s Frank Pais International Airport.

– 10:30 a.m. Mass in Holguin’s Revolution Square. Homily by pope.

– 3:45 p.m. Blessing of the city of Holguin from Cross Hill (Loma de la Cruz).

– 4:40 p.m. Departure by air for Santiago de Cuba.

– 5:30 p.m. Arrival at Santiago de Cuba’s Antonio Maceo International Airport.

– 7 p.m. Meeting with bishops at the seminary of St. Basil the Great in El Cobre.

– 7:45 p.m. Prayer to Our Lady of Charity with bishops and the papal entourage in the Minor Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

Tuesday, Sept. 22 (El Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Washington)

– 8 a.m. Mass in the Minor Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. Homily by pope.

– 11 a.m. Meeting with families in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption in Santiago de Cuba. Speech by pope. Blessing of the city from the outside of the cathedral.

– 12:15 p.m. Farewell ceremony at Santiago de Cuba’s International Airport.

– 12:30 p.m. Departure for Washington.

– 4 p.m. Arrival at Andrews Air Force Base. Official welcome.

Wednesday, Sept. 23 (Washington)

– 9:15 a.m. Welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. Speech by pope, followed by a courtesy visit with Obama.

– 11:30 a.m. Meeting with U.S. bishops in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Speech by pope.

– 4:15 p.m. Mass and canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Homily by pope.

Thursday, Sept. 24 (Washington, New York)

– 9:20 a.m. Visit to the U.S. Congress. Speech by pope.

– 11:15 a.m. Visit to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and meeting with homeless people. Greeting by pope.

– 4 p.m. Departure by air to New York.

– 5 p.m. Arrival at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

– 6:45 p.m. Celebration of vespers with priests, men and women religious in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Homily by pope.

Friday, Sept. 25 (New York)

– 8:30 a.m. Visit the headquarters of the United Nations. Greeting and speech by pope.

– 11:30 a.m. Interreligious meeting at the ground zero 9/11 Memorial. Speech by pope.

– 4 p.m. Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Elementary School in East Harlem and meeting with children and immigrant families. Speech by pope.

– 6 p.m. Mass at Madison Square Garden. Homily by pope.

Saturday, Sept. 26 (New York, Philadelphia)

– 8:40 a.m. Departure by air to Philadelphia.

– 9:30 a.m. Arrival at Philadelphia’s International Airport.

– 10:30 a.m. Mass with Pennsylvania’s bishops, priests, men and women religious at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. Homily by pope.

– 4:45 p.m. Meeting for religious liberty with the Hispanic community and immigrants at Philadelphia’s Independence Mall. Speech by pope.

– 7:30 p.m. Festival of Families and prayer vigil at Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Speech by pope.

Sunday, Sept. 27 (Philadelphia)

– 9:15 a.m. Meeting with bishops taking part in the World Meeting of Families at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Speech by pope.

– 11 a.m. Visit with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. Speech by pope.

– 4 p.m. Closing Mass of the VIII World Meeting of Families at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Homily by pope.

– 7 p.m. Greeting to the organizing committee, volunteers and donors at Philadelphia’s International Airport. Speech by pope.

– 7:45 p.m. Farewell ceremony.

– 8 p.m. Departure for Rome.

Monday, Sept. 28 (Rome)

– 10 a.m. (4:45 a.m. EDT). Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.