WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro had a rare phone call Friday ahead of Pope Francis’ impending visit to both their nations.

The White House said Obama and Castro commended the pope’s role in “advancing relations between our countries.” Francis was instrumental in the secret talks that led to a thaw in relations between the Cold War foes, even offering the Vatican as a neutral location for negotiations.

Francis’ visit to the U.S. and Cuba comes as the two countries painstakingly work to normalize relations after a half-century diplomatic freeze. Earlier Friday, the U.S. eased rules for citizens wishing to travel to Cuba or do business with its growing ranks of independent entrepreneurs, a step aimed at kindling greater economic freedom on the island. Read more…

More about Travel, Pope, Cuba, Us World, and Politics

Continue reading here: 

Obama and Castro discuss what’s ahead as U.S. eases rules on travel and trade with Cuba