In word and deed, Pope Francis will take his vision of a Catholic’s approach to family life, economics, immigration and good governance to Cuba and the United States during a September 19-27 visit.
Visiting both Cuba and the United States on the same trip not only acknowledges his role in encouraging detente between them, but will give Pope Francis an opportunity to demonstrate that while different political and cultural challenges face Catholics in both countries, the Gospel and its values are the same.
Today the Vatican published the detailed schedule of Pope Francis’ September 19-22 visit to Cuba and his September 22-27 visit to the United States.
For Pope Francis, one of the key values Catholics in the US and Cuba share is the obligation to “go out”, proclaiming the Gospel and bringing God’s mercy to the poorest and most disadvantaged people.
The standard of living in the United States may be exponentially higher than in Cuba, but in Pope Francis’s vision that only increases the responsibility of US Catholics to reach out and to share. He will demonstrate what he means when he meets homeless people in Washington on September 24, children and immigrant families at a Catholic school in Harlem when he visits New York on September 25, and prisoners on September 27 in Philadelphia.
The closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families will follow the papal meeting with prisoners. The World Meeting of Families international congress on September 22-25 and the celebration of families with the Pope on September 26-27 were the initial reason for the papal visit.
With the Catholic Church’s constant concern for promoting strong families and with the world Synod of Bishops on the family set to start one week after the papal visit, marriage and family life are expected to be topics throughout the Pope’s visit to both Cuba and the United States.
Long before the Vatican released the full trip itinerary, it had confirmed certain parts of it: US President Barack Obama will welcome the Pope to the White House on September 23; that afternoon, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and canonise Blessed Junipero Serra; the Pope will address a joint meeting of Congress on September 24, becoming the first Pope to do so; and Pope Francis will address the UN General Assembly on September 25. It is thought the Pope may bring up some of the points he made in his recent environmental encyclical, Laudato Si, given that world nations will come together just a few months later for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in the hopes of reaching global agreement on reducing greenhouse gases.
The Pope also is expected to emphasise the contributions of US Catholics to society, defend religious liberty and support the Church’s right to uphold its teaching, including in its employment practices. He will use his visit to ground zero in New York as an occasion for an interreligious gathering.
The Pope will spend three days in Cuba visiting three different cities, including the popular Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.
He will hold the usual meetings with President Raul Castro, young people, families and religious as well as celebrate Mass and vespers all three days. But he also will bless the cities of Holguin and Santiago de Cuba — blessing Holguin from a panoramic hilltop and pilgrimage site called Cross Hill.
It will be his third visit to the Americas after Brazil in 2013 and Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay in July, and his 10th trip abroad since his election in 2013.
Full schedule of the Pope’s visit to Cuba and the US (September 19-27):
September 19 (Rome, Havana)
10.15am Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Havana.
4.05pm Arrival ceremony at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport. Speech by pope.
September 20 (Havana)
9am Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square. Homily by Pope. Recitation of the Angelus.
4pm Courtesy visit with Cuba’s President Raul Castro in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution.
5.15pm Celebration of vespers with priests, religious and seminarians in Havana’s cathedral. Homily by Pope.
6.30pm Greeting to young people at the Father Felix Varela cultural center in Havana. Remarks by Pope.
September 21 (Havana, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, El Cobre)
8am Departure by air for Holguin, Cuba.
9.20am Arrival at Holguin’s Frank Pais International Airport.
10.30am Mass in Holguin’s Revolution Square. Homily by pope.
3.45pm Blessing of the city of Holguin from Cross Hill (Loma de la Cruz).
4.40pm Departure by air for Santiago de Cuba.
5.30pm Arrival at Santiago de Cuba’s Antonio Maceo International Airport.
7pm Meeting with bishops at the seminary of St. Basil the Great in El Cobre.
7.45pm Prayer to Our Lady of Charity with bishops and the papal entourage in the Minor Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.
September 22 (El Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Washington DC)
8am Mass in the Minor Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. Homily by pope.
11am Meeting with families in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption in Santiago de Cuba. Speech by pope. Blessing of the city from the outside of the cathedral.
12.15pm Farewell ceremony at Santiago de Cuba’s International Airport.
12.30pm Departure for Washington, United States
4pm Arrival at Andrews Air Force Base. Official welcome.
September 23 (Washington DC)
9.15am Meeting with President Obama at the White House
11.30am Midday Prayer with the bishops of the United States, St. Matthew’s Cathedral
4.15pm Mass of Canonisation of Junipero Serra, Basilicia of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
September 24 (Washington DC, New York City)
9.20am Address to Joint Session of the United States Congress
11.15am Visit to St. Patrick in the City and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington
4pm Depart from Joint Base Andrews
5pm Arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport
6.45pm Evening Prayer (Vespers) at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
September 25 (New York City)
8.30am Visit to the United Nations and Address to the United Nations General Assembly
11.30am Multi-religious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Centre
4pm Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, East Harlem
6pm Mass at Madison Square Garden
September 26 (New York City, Philadelphia)
8.40am Departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport
9.30am Arrival at Atlantic Aviation, Philadelphia
10.30am Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia
4.45pm Visit to Independence Mall
7.30pm Visit to the Festival of Families Benjamin Franklin Parkway
September 27 (Philadelphia)
9.15am Meeting with bishops at at St Martin’s Chapel, St Charles Borromeo Seminary
11am Visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
4pm Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families, Benjamin Franklin Parkway
7pm Visit with organisers, volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families, Atlantic Aviation
8pm Departure for Rome