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Raul Castro Says Pope Inspiring Him To Return To Church

Pope Francis talks with Cuban President Raul Castro during a private audience at the Vatican on Sunday.

Cuban leader Raul Castro, on a visit to the Vatican, where he thanked the pope for helping broker a thaw in relations between Havana and Washington, said he was so impressed with the pontiff that he might return to Catholicism, the faith he grew up in.

"I will resume praying and turn to the Church again if the Pope continues in this vein," Castro, the 83-year-old younger brother of Fidel, told reporters, adding, "I mean what I say."

"The pontiff is a Jesuit, and I, in some way, am too. I studied at Jesuit schools," he said.

Reuters says Castro and Francis met privately for nearly an hour – "unusually long for a papal meeting." It also said that papal audiences on Sundays "are extremely rare."

Reuters reports: "Francis made an exception when Castro asked if he could stop in Rome on his way back from Moscow to thank Francis for the Vatican mediation between the United States and Cuba, Cuban officials said."

The BBC notes: "Both Mr Castro and his brother, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, were baptised as Roman Catholics, but most Church activities were suppressed after the revolution."

Francis will travel to Cuba in September on his way to the United States. He will be the third pope to go to the Caribbean island nation, following John Paul II's visit in 1998 and Benedict XVI's in 2012.

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