Former Cuban president Fidel Castro (R) shaking hands with Pope Francis in Havana

Pope Francis has met Cuba’s former President, Fidel Castro, after celebrating Mass in front of tens of thousands of people in Havana. The two men discussed world affairs and religion, in what the Vatican called an “informal and friendly” encounter.

Before the meeting, Pope Francis gave a homily in which he urged Cubans to serve each other rather than ideology. It is the first visit by the Pope to the Communist-ruled island, on a trip that will later take him to the US.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi described the meeting between Pope Francis and Fidel Castro, which took place at the former Cuban leader’s home, as low-key.

They exchanged books: Pope Francis gave Mr Castro three titles, including a book of sermons by Mr Castro’s former teacher, while in return the Pope received Fidel and Religion, a collection of interviews with a Brazilian priest.

Earlier in the day, thousands streamed into Havana’s Revolution Square to hear the Pope.

Security services were seen arresting at least three people who were shouting and attempting to distribute flyers at the edge of the square as the Mass got under way. (BBC)