updated 1/8/2005 6:46:57 PM ET 2005-01-08T23:46:57

Pope John Paul II on Saturday reiterated concern about the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, while encouraging openness on the communist-run island.

The pope met Saturday with Cuba’s new ambassador to the Vatican, Raul Roa Kouri, and the pontiff’s remarks were provided in a statement.

“The Holy See wishes ardently that the obstacles that currently impede free communication and exchange between Cuba and the international community may be overcome as soon as possible, thus consolidating, by means of a respectful and open dialogue among all, the conditions necessary for genuine development,” the pope said.

The pontiff also made several references to a wish for greater dialogue on the island.

The Vatican is against economic embargoes for political purposes, including the U.S. embargo against Havana.

John Paul II made a historic visit to Cuba in 1998, issuing strong calls for more freedoms, including freedom of expression.

After nearly 40 years of tensions following the 1959 Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, church-state relations have improved, especially following John Paul’s visit. Christmas was reinstated as a permanent holiday on the island thanks to the pope’s visit.

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