The Latest: Pope signals hope for visits to China, Russia

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The Latest on Pope Francis's historic meeting in Cuba with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and his subsequent trip to Mexico (all times local):

7:50 a.m.

Pope Francis is taking a big step toward improving relations with the Russian Orthodox Church by meeting in Cuba with Patriarch Kirill. But when might he visit Russia?

Francis was asked the question as he greeted journalists en route to Havana on Friday.

"China and Russia, I have them here," he said, pointing to his heart. "Pray."

Popes have dreamed of visiting Russia but the circumstances continue to dim any hope of a papal visit anytime soon.

The Alitalia jet carrying Francis and his entourage departed Friday morning from Rome's airport. First stop is Havana's airport, where Francis will meet for a few hours with Kirill in a ground-breaking step toward improving Catholic-Orthodox relations.

Francis will then visit Mexico, returning to Rome on Feb. 18.