VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MAY 10: President of Cuba Raul Castro and Pope Francis meet at the Paul VI Hall private studio during a private audience on May 10, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. This is the first visit of the Cuban leader to the Vatican, twenty years ago his brother Fidel Castro had met John Paul II prior to his visit to Cuba. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)
Vatican Pool—2015 Vatican Pool
September 18, 2015 5:51 PM EDT

President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro spoke on the phone Friday about normalizing relations between the two countries in time for Pope Francis’ visit.

According to a statement from the White House, the two Presidents agreed that Pope Francis had played a crucial role in reopening communications between the two countries and commended the cooperation between American and Cuban medics during a Navy visit to Haiti this week.

They also discussed further steps both countries can take to advance communication, including the recent opening of embassies in Washington and Havana.

The Pope is due to arrive in Cuba on Saturday and will then come to the U.S. for a several-day visit.

 

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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com.

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