VATICAN CITY (The Blaze/AP) -- The Vatican No. 2 has said Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming trip to Cuba should help promote democracy on the Communist-run island.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone dismissed suggestions that Raul Castro's government could use the trip as a propaganda tool, saying he expected an outpouring of support for the pope because he is the head of the Catholic Church.
Bertone spoke in an interview Thursday with the Turin daily La Stampa on the eve of his six-day trip to Mexico and Cuba.
The San Francisco Chronicle has more about this voyage:
In Cuba, Pope Benedict comes to show Rome's backing for a politically savvy cardinal who is pushing - ever so gently - for change on the communist-run island. [...]
Officially, the pope's trip to Cuba is timed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of the Virgin of Charity, the dark-skinned patron saint of Cuba, adored by the faithful and admired even by committed communists as a symbol of nationalist unity.
But many analysts also see the visit to Cuba as a well-timed demonstration of support for Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who has positioned the church as a player, serving as a moral, legitimate, parallel voice that negotiates with the Cuban government.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke earlier this week about some of the issues he sees with the Catholic Church in Cuba. Watch his comments, below:
While a meeting with Fidel Castro isn't on the official agenda, the Vatican has said it could happen if Castro wants it.
Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to Cuba in 1998. Bertone said that trip led to progress in religious freedom and better church-state cooperation.