The Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict XVI is planning to visit Mexico and the island of Cuba this coming spring.
The announcement from the Holy See is the first announcement regarding the Pope’s international travels for the upcoming year.
Pope Benedict will be 85-years-old in April and is showing no signs of slowing down on his papal duties.
The Pope’s former trips have been mostly focused upon Europe. However, Latin American countries have expressed their desire for a visit from the head of the Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II was the first pope ever to travel to the island nation of Cuba in a historic January 1998 visit.
On his visit, the Pope improved relations with Fidel Castro and the ruling Communist Party. Since then the church has had a visible presence on the island, even aiding in the 2003 release of locked-up dissidents.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said that the Pope’s visit to the island nation would offer “great encouragement” to followers of the Catholic Church, as “the church and the whole population are living through an important moment in their history.”
Lombardi also said that Cubans want to see the pope very much and have never forgotten “John Paul II’s historic visit.”
The papal visit would also take place during the time the island celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity, the patron saint of Cuba.
The plans for the far journey indicate that despite his increasing age, Benedict XVI will continue to travel far and wide to reach out to the world’s Catholics.