Pope Francis Helps US Cuba Relations
Pope Francis received a special birthday present today with separate announcements by President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro to re-establish diplomatic relations and soften aspects of United States and Cuban policy toward each other. President Obama thanked the Pope in his remarks announcing the change in US policy. Pope Francis first raised the issue in March when President Obama visited the Pope. The Vatican facilitated subsequent meetings in Canada and brokered the final agreement.
Improved relations with Cuba have been high on the agenda of previous popes including St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Vatican policy has opposed the United States trade embargo due to the hardships it causes for everyday people in Cuba. During their visits to Cuba both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict called for an end to the Cuban embargo. Pope Francis knows the Cuban situation well and is close friends with the Archbishop of Havana. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin has served as the Papal ambassador or nuncio to Cuba and Venezuela which is Cuba’s closest ally.
University of Notre Dame professor of political science, Michael Desch, called this a “long overdue step.” Professor Desch said that normalizing relations with Cuba will not strengthen the Castro regime. He called that logic flawed saying, “The more they are exposed to American culture, politics, and our economy, the weaker the hold of the Castroites on power.”