VATICAN CITY: Cuban President Raul Castro will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Sunday to thank the pontiff for his role in brokering the rapprochement between Havana and Washington. The first South American Pope played a key role in secret negotiations between the United States and Cuba that led to the surprise announcement in December that they would seek to restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 years of tensions. The Holy See has said the Argentine pope personally mediated between the two sides, and the Vatican hosted delegations from the two countries in October. The Vatican said on Sunday’s meeting would be “strictly private” while a US theologian said Francis would reprise the words of Polish pope John Paul II, who made a historic first papal visit to Cuba in 1998. “Let Cuba open itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba,” John Paul II urged during the visit, when he was accompanied by Jorge Bergoglio, then auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires and today Pope Francis.