Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Cuba in September before a trip to the United States, the Vatican said Wednesday. The trip follows Francis' help in mending and resuming diplomatic negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba and will mark the third consecutive Pope to visit the island nation.
The two popes prior to Francis -- Pope John Paul II and Benedict Benedict XVI -- were the first pontiffs to visit Cuba in 1998 and in 2012, respectively. The exact timing and specifics of Francis' trip were not yet released by the Vatican, CNN reported, but it should come before his planned late-September visit to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.
With the details of Francis' stopover in Cuba still unclear, perhaps the best indicators of what the trip will entail are the visits taken by Benedict and John Paul. Below are photos of the two prior papal Cuba visits, beginning with Benedict in 2012 and moving to John Paul's history-making, first-ever pontiff trip to the country:
Pope Benedict was welcomed to Cuba in 2012 by President Raul Castro. Castro and Obama made history by meeting on April 11, the first time the leaders of the two countries met in about 50 years, the New York Times reported.
Benedict celebrated Mass in 2012 at Revolution Square before an estimated 200,000 people, the BBC reported.
Benedict urged the audience at the mass to use its faith so "that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity."
The stage in Revolution Square in Havana from which Pope Benedict spoke was the largest in the island nation.
Those in attendance received communion and rosaries after the pope spoke at Revolution Square in 2012. Pope Benedict asked for increased liberties for Catholics in Cuba, including the right to teach religion in schools and universities.
Pope Benedict also notably met with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro for about 30 minutes during his 2012 visit. The meeting was one of the final stops on Benedict's trip. Before leaving, the pope called for Cuba and the world to embrace "love, reconciliation and brotherhood," according to NPR.
People lined the streets as Pope Benedict XVI made his way to the airport in Havana in the popemobile. The trip lasted three days and was made in the name of charity and peace, the pope said, according to the BBC. It was also a visit in which Benedict XVI called for religious freedom in Cuba. "The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and public dimension, manifests the unity of the human being, who is at once a citizen and a believer," Benedict said, according to NPR.
John Paul II's trip to Cuba in 1998 was the first-ever trip to the country by a pope. The five-day visit included a meeting with then-leader Fidel Castro (pictured below), a stop-in at the University of Havana, a visit to a leprosy center and meetings with religious leaders, according to americancatholic.org.
John Paul II made his trip to Cuba after Communist leader Castro relaxed his stance on religion, changing the nation from officially atheist to secular, the Huffington Post reported. The pontiff blessed a stone during his 1998 visit that would later become a part of the first seminary built (completed in 2010) since the Cuban revolution in the 1950s.
John Paul II blessed the crowd before celebrating Mass at Revolution Square in 1998. His trip was a historic endeavor that paved the way for Benedict and Francis to visit Cuba.