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Mamberti Close Up
HAVANA — A meeting between the Vatican's foreign minister and President Raul Castro sparked hopes Sunday that more of the island's political prisoners may be released or transferred to jails closer to home.

State television showed Castro dressed in a suit instead of his usual olive-green for the meeting with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

A statement read during the official nightly newscast said both men discussed an "international agenda." It called relations between the Vatican and Cuba "cordial, respectful and continuous," and applauded the "favorable level of relations between the state and the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba."

Heading to the airport at the end of his five-day stay, Mamberti told reporters only that "it was a very positive meeting."

During the visit, Mamberti led discussions among religious and academic leaders, including three visiting U.S. researchers, that encouraged dialogue and reconciliation between Cubans and Cuban-Americans.

So far, a dozen inmates have been moved to jails closer to home, and officials granted freedom on health grounds for prisoner Ariel Sigler in Matanzas province.

While Mamberti was in Havana, Emilio Aranguren, bishop of the eastern province of Holguin, said island church officials hope Pope Benedict XVI can come to Cuba in 2012, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba's patron saint.

The last papal visit to the island was made by John Paul II in 1998.

Mamberti was the first top Vatican official to come since Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the pope's secretary of state, visited Cuba in February 2008.


Source: AP

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