Saturday, September 19, 2015 12:19 pm
Pope Francis left Rome on Saturday for Havana, where he will start his landmark trip to Cuba and the United States.
The Alitalia plane carrying the pope, his entourage and journalists left Fiumicino airport for a flight of nearly 12 hours to the Cuban capital, Havana
The pope will be in Cuba until Tuesday, when he leaves for Washington. Francis will also visit New York and Philadelphia before returning to Rome on Sept. 28.
It is the Argentine pope’s first trip to both countries. The Vatican mediated the return to normal diplomatic relations between Cuba and Washington last year.
Francis will become the first pope to address the US Congress and he will also proclaim the first saint on US soil by canonising the controversial (and Hispanic) missionary, Junipero Serra.
Francis though will also be following in the footsteps of his predecessors, becoming the third pontiff to visit Cuba in the past 17 years – a remarkable record for any country much less one with such a tiny Catholic community.