Pope Benedict XVI is kicking off his three-day visit to Cuba today after traveling to Mexico for three days, where he denounced the drug violence sweeping the country.
Pope Benedict is expected to arrive at Antonio Maceo International Airport in Santiago de Cuba around 3 p.m. EST, according to a schedule posted on catholicnews.com.
Benedict is expected to give a speech when he touches down at the airport.
An outdoor Mass celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre is scheduled to be held around 5:30 p.m. at Antonio Maceo Revolution Square. Benedict is to deliver a homily during the event.
On Tuesday, the pope is scheduled to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre at around 10:30 a.m.
Benedict departs from Santiago de Cuba for the country's capital, Havana, at around 11:30 a.m. and is expected to arrive in Havana around 1 p.m.
Large crowds are expected to turn out in both cities as preparations for the visit have been under way, with fresh coats of paint splashed across buildings and posters announcing his arrival tacked across city structures, reported CNN.
One of the most talked about events on Benedict's trip is surely to be his so-called courtesy visit with President Raul Castro in Havana's Palace of the Revolution. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Benedict will meet and have dinner with Cuban bishops and his entourage at the apolstolic nunciature at around 8:15.
Benedict begins Wednesday in Havana's Revolution Square for 10 a.m. Mass as well as a homily by the pope.
The pope concludes his three-day Cuban visit with a 5:30 p.m. farewell ceremony at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport, where he will deliver a speech before departing for Rome.
The visit to Cuba comes after a three-day stop in Mexico, where the pope donned a sombrero and spoke out against the drug-fueled violence waged by Mexican cartels that rule the country.
It is the responsibility of the church to educate consciences, to teach moral responsibility and to unmask the evil, Benedict said, according to the Los Angeles Times. To unmask this idolatry of money that enslaves man, to unmask the false promises, the lies, the fraud that is behind drugs.