Cuba Airs Message From Pope On State TV

HAVANA (AP) _ Pope Francis has delivered an unprecedented televised message to the Cuban people ahead of his trip to the island, telling them on state television that Jesus “never abandons us” and he “loves you very much.”

The four-minute message from Francis was remarkable in a country led by a communist government that maintained a policy of official hostility to the church for years after taking power. Relations have warmed since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1998 but Catholic clergy speaking on state television remains a rare sight.

A letter from John Paul was published in state media ahead of his 1998 trip to Cuba, while Pope Benedict XVI did not send a message before visiting in 2012, the head of public relations for the Cuban Bishops’ Conference said.