Pope Benedict XVI Visits Cuba Following Praised Mexico Visit

The head of the Roman Catholic Church Pope Benedict XVI will be making his way to Cuba Monday. following a highly praised trip to Mexico.

The pope will giving an open-air mass on Monday evening in Santiago de Cuba during his three-day stay in the Communist country.

Although Cuba never officially outlawed religion, when Fidel Castro 's Communist government took power in 1959, a tightening on religious freedoms occurred and religious schools were closed and priests expelled from the country.

Pope Benedict will be meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, but it is unclear if Benedict XVI will have an opportunity to meet Raul's brother Fidel.

Prior to the trip the pope was quoted as saying Cuba's single party political system "no longer corresponds with reality."

Pope Benedict XVI's trip will be the first papal visit to the country since Pope John Paul II made his historic visit to the island nation in 1998.

During the visit, Pope John Paul II improved relations with Fidel Castro and his ruling Communist Party, leading to a more visible presence of the church on the island and even aiding in the 2003 release of dissidents who had been locked up by the Communist party.

Pope Benedict XVI has focused a majority of his travel around European nations, but announced his decision to take part in a two-country tour to visit faithful Catholics in the Latin American nations of Mexico and Cuba this past fall.

During his three-day tour to Mexico the pope urged people to maintain their faith and continue to pray to the Virgin Mary, who is considered the patron saint of the Americas, despite the violence and chaos brought on by Mexico's deadly drug war.

"At this time, when so many families are separated or forced to emigrate, when so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime, we come to Mary in search of consolation, strength and hope," Benedict XVI told a crowd of delighted worshipers on Sunday.