`’Bienvenido!” Francis said in his native Spanish, welcoming Castro to his studio near the Vatican public audience hall.
The Cuban president, bowing his head, gripped Francis’ hand with both of his, and the two men began private talks. The meeting lasted nearly an hour, as the Argentine-born Francis and Castro spoke in their native Spanish, reports Fox News.
Francis will visit Cuba in September en route to the United States.
After leaving the Vatican, Castro, the brother of Fidel, the revolutionary leader who brought the Communists to power in Cuba, gushed with praise for Francis.
The pontiff “is a Jesuit, and I, in some way, am too,” Castro said at a news conference. “I always studied at Jesuit schools.”
`’When the pope goes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses, and with satisfaction,” Castro said at a news conference at the office of Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, whom he met with after the Vatican talks.