VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis will visit Cuba before arriving in the United States in the last week of September, the Vatican said Wednesday.
The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed the Cuba leg to reporters but didn't provide details or dates.
Francis has been credited with helping the United States and Cuba reach their historic rapprochement by writing to the leaders of both countries and having the Vatican host their delegations for the final negotiations. Francis' visit to Cuba would be a way for him to push the process forward.
He is scheduled to visit three U.S. cities starting around Sept. 23. He will address Congress and meet with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, address the United Nations in New York and attend a church rally for families in Philadelphia.
Francis will become the third pope to visit Cuba. In 1998, St. John Paul II said during his visit that Cuba should "open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba."
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI followed up with a 2012 trip during which he voiced the Vatican's long-standing position that the U.S. embargo was unjust and only hurt the most vulnerable on the island.
Francis also has spoken out against the U.S. embargo while also condemning socialism.