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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pope to Receive Castro

VATICAN CITY () -- Two of the towering figures of the 20th century, Pope John Paul II and Fidel Castro, are to meet for the first time Tuesday in an encounter that will almost certainly lead to a papal trip to communist Cuba.

It will be the highest-profile papal audience since Dec. 1, 1989, when the Polish-born pope received then-Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev as the Iron Curtain began to disintegrate. Ironically, exactly 24 hours before his scheduled meeting with Castro, the Pope met for the fourth time with Gorbachev.

The restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba now are similar, if not identical, to those that existed in the former Soviet Union and parts of Eastern Europe.