Pope Francis (R) meets Cuban President Raul Castro during a private audience at the Vatican May 10, 2015. REUTERS/GREGORIO BORGIA/POOL

News Americas, ROME, Italy, Mon. May 11, 2015: A Caribbean leader on Sunday was bestowed with a medal of a French saint by Pope Francis, the Vatican’s first South American pope.

The pope presented Cuban President Raul Castro with a medal of Saint Martin de Tours.  Saint Martin de Tours is a Catholic saint who was Bishop of Tours. He has become one of the most familiar and recognizable saints.

He was born in what is now Szombathely, Hungary, spent much of his childhood in Pavia, Italy, and lived most of his adult life in France. He is considered a spiritual bridge across Europe.

His shrine in France became a famous stopping-point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

He is celebrated for having given his coat to a beggar, and urged others to “clothe and support the poor.”

The presentation was made at the Vatican after President Castro met with Pope Francis Sunday to thank the pontiff for his role in brokering an historic rapprochement between Havana and Washington, a papal spokesman said.

During the meeting Castro also gave the pontiff a gift – a painting by Cuban artist Kcho inspired by the plight of illegal immigrants stranded at sea.

Castro, who was accompanied by his Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, held a private hour-long meeting with the pontiff in a small room adjoining the Paul VI Audience Hall,.

“I read all the Holy Father’s speeches,” Castro said, adding that if the pope “continues to speak in this way, one day I will start praying again and return to the Catholic Church. And I’m not saying that as a joke.”


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