Pope Benedict said on Friday communism no longer works in Cuba and the Church was ready to help the island find new ways of moving forward without "trauma".
Speaking on the plane taking him from Rome for a trip to Mexico and Cuba, the pope told reporters: "Today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality."
Responding to a question about his visit to the island, a communist bastion 90 miles (145 km) off the coast of the United States for more than 50 years, Benedict added: "New models must be found with patience and in a constructive way....we want to help."
Benedict, who is due to arrive in Cuba on Monday after a three-day visit to Mexico, called for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on the island. (Reporting by Philip Pullella, writing by Barry Moody)
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