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Pope Benedict Expected To Meet Fidel Castro

Cuban President Raul Castro (right) with Pope Benedict XVI upon the latter's arrival in Cuba on March 26.
Pope Benedict is expected to meet with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on March 28, as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church concludes his first visit to the communist-ruled island.

In comments on the Cuban government's website, the 85-year-old Castro said he would be "happy" to meet the pope and had asked for "a few minutes of his very busy schedule."

The pontiff has already agreed to a meeting with Castro, who stepped down from the Cuban presidency in 2008 amid health problems, after ruling the country since 1959.

After arriving in Havana, Benedict said he prayed for "renewal and hope" for all Cubans.

He met with President Raul Castro on March 26, but church officials have said there is no time on his schedule to meet antiregime dissidents.

With reporting by dpa, AP, AFP