Pope Francis Praises US-Cuba Rapprochement

Pope Francis Praises US-Cuba RapprochementPope Francis Praises US-Cuba Rapprochement

Despite promises to stay away from politics during his visit to Cuba, where atheism has prevailed for decades, Pope Francis could not resist praising the rapprochement in US-Cuban relations, promoting it as a model of reconciliation for the world.

Pope Francis, the third leader of the Catholic Church to visit communist Cuba, was met at Havana Airport by Raul Castro, who rolled out the red carpet for the pontiff. Taking to the stage first, Castro did not hesitate to criticize the decades of US economic blockade and human rights violations in Guantanamo, RT reported.

“The blockade, which causes human damages and privation to the Cuban family, is cruel, immoral and illegal, and it should cease,” Castro said. “The territory usurped by the Guantanamo naval base should be returned to Cuba and other issues resolved too.”

In a lengthy speech welcoming the pope, Cuban President Raul Castro also praised Francis’ critique of the capitalist system which has “turned money into its idol”; while Cuba’s communist government “founded an equitable society with social justice.”

Prior to the pope’s arrival, the Vatican gave assurances that he would not explicitly address politics in Cuba, as the 78-year-old pontiff has been serving as a mediator between Washington and Havana and has been a guarantor of negotiations. Pope Francis, however, did say that the diplomatic breakthrough between the US and Cuba should become an example to the whole world.

“It is a sign of victory of the culture of encounter and dialogue, ‘the system of universal growth’ over the ‘forever dead system of groups and dynasties’,” he said.

The historic breakthrough between Obama and Castro was reached in December, and while an embargo remains in place, relations have dramatically improved.

On Friday, using his executive authority to circumvent Congress, Obama issued new regulations weakening the embargo for a second time to allow for Americans to travel to Cuba. The new regulations also offer more freedom for telephone and Internet investments and money transfers to Cuba.