Pope Francis has arrived in Havana this afternoon and starts a historic 10-day visit to Cuba and the United States, according to reports.
Cuban President Raul Castro welcomed Pope Francis in a long speech at the airport. In his speech, Castro said the communist government has "founded an equitable society with social justice" in Cuba and he praised the pope's critiques of the global economic system that has "globalized capital and turned money into its idol."
Castro thanked the pope for facilitating negotiations that led to a detente between the United States and Cuba. Castro is also calling for the end of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, which he called "cruel, immoral and illegal," and the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
Castro praised his country's socialist model for building a society "focused on human beings and the family" and said he's "firmly determined to ... build a just and virtuous society with high ethical and spiritual values."
"As the honorable priest Félix Varela indicated, 'We want the future generations to inherit from us the dignity of man, and to remember what it takes to recover it so that they fear losing it,'" said Castro, according to a translation of his remarks.
Cubans, who live in a country frequently cited for human rights abuses, "exercise religious freedom as a right consecrated in our Constitution," Castro claimed.
The holy leader of the Catholic Church will be in Cuba until Sept. 22 when he departs for Washington. While in Cuba, the Pope could have some politics on his plate, the Associated Press reported.
Vatican officials told the Associated Press that the plight of dissidents might come up in private meetings between Francis and the country's leader Raul Castro.
The pope has been opposed to the long-standing U.S. trade and travel embargo. New regulations issued on Friday are intended to increase travel and trade between the U.S. and Cuba.
The regulations are part of an effort by the Obama administration to normalize relations between the two countries.
Francis is expected to not just discuss politics while in Cuba, but also try to strengthen relations between the church and the Cuban people, the AP reported.
He plans to visit several places off the beaten path, such as traveling to the eastern Cuban city of Santiago to pray at the sanctuary of Cuba's patron saint, the AP said.
The pope is expected to continue his travels to the United States and arrives in Washington on Sept. 22.
There, he will become the first pope to address Congress, where he is sure to discuss recent controversial views on the dangers of capitalism and that climate change is manmade.
Not all lawmakers are happy with the Pope's historic address.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Az., said that he would boycott the pontiff's visit mainly due to his thoughts on climate change.
"If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time," he wrote in a letter on the website townhall.com. "But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous."
The pope is also expected to proclaim the first saint on U.S. soil through "canonizing controversial (and Hispanic) missionary, Junipero Serra, according to the AP.
Francis also plans stops in Philadelphia and New York to speak at the United Nations.
He will also make several stops in unorthodox places along the way. For instance, in Washington he will meet the city's homeless and in New York he plans to visit Harlem.