Pope Francis 'key' in U.S.-Cuba relations

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Pope Francis had a direct role in the United States' re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

A statement from the Vatican, quoted here in full, elaborates:

The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history. In recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Excellency Mr Raúl Castro, and the President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama, and invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two Parties The Holy See received Delegations of the two countries in the Vatican last October and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both Parties. The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens.

(Interesting to see Castro addressed as "Excellency" – the same honorific used for Catholic bishops – and Obama addressed as "Honorable.")

USA Today quotes Catholic University's Stephen Shneck: "It's very much part of the pope's own understanding of proper foreign relations."

Some commentators, including a few here at the American Thinker, view the development as a loss for the United States.  Silvio Canto, Jr., asking what the U.S. got out of this deal, answers, "[N]othing, unless you are one of those who believes that the Castro regime is about to reform the economy, allow an independent media, and hold multi-party elections."

While Cuba certainly won't become a venerable representative republic overnight, former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Timothy Cardinal Dolan argues that "if we want to change the Cuban government ... isn't it better to have an entrée to bring our concerns and worries to them instead of isolating them?  So diplomatic relations might provide a more credible, compelling way to bring about the legitimate changes that we think need to happen."

An Obama administration official agrees: "Openness is a better policy than isolation in advancing the things we care about in Cuba."  What the Obama administration "cares about in Cuba" versus what the Catholic Church cares about is open to interpretation.

Regardless, Pope Francis's involvement in opening up a conversation between Washington and Havana is not opposed to Catholic teaching, which emphasizes charity above all things.  Catholics cannot sit well knowing about the intense and odious oppression in communist Cuba; the Church calls all of her members to alleviate suffering and sow love wherever possible.

The question, as is often the case, is how best to do this.  Sometimes it is an easy question to answer; other times, as in the case of Cuba, it's more complicated.

Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor.  Contact him at drew@americanthinker.com, and follow him on Twitter @DJB627.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Pope Francis had a direct role in the United States' re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

A statement from the Vatican, quoted here in full, elaborates:

The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history. In recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Excellency Mr Raúl Castro, and the President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama, and invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two Parties The Holy See received Delegations of the two countries in the Vatican last October and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both Parties. The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens.

(Interesting to see Castro addressed as "Excellency" – the same honorific used for Catholic bishops – and Obama addressed as "Honorable.")

USA Today quotes Catholic University's Stephen Shneck: "It's very much part of the pope's own understanding of proper foreign relations."

Some commentators, including a few here at the American Thinker, view the development as a loss for the United States.  Silvio Canto, Jr., asking what the U.S. got out of this deal, answers, "[N]othing, unless you are one of those who believes that the Castro regime is about to reform the economy, allow an independent media, and hold multi-party elections."

While Cuba certainly won't become a venerable representative republic overnight, former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Timothy Cardinal Dolan argues that "if we want to change the Cuban government ... isn't it better to have an entrée to bring our concerns and worries to them instead of isolating them?  So diplomatic relations might provide a more credible, compelling way to bring about the legitimate changes that we think need to happen."

An Obama administration official agrees: "Openness is a better policy than isolation in advancing the things we care about in Cuba."  What the Obama administration "cares about in Cuba" versus what the Catholic Church cares about is open to interpretation.

Regardless, Pope Francis's involvement in opening up a conversation between Washington and Havana is not opposed to Catholic teaching, which emphasizes charity above all things.  Catholics cannot sit well knowing about the intense and odious oppression in communist Cuba; the Church calls all of her members to alleviate suffering and sow love wherever possible.

The question, as is often the case, is how best to do this.  Sometimes it is an easy question to answer; other times, as in the case of Cuba, it's more complicated.

Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor.  Contact him at drew@americanthinker.com, and follow him on Twitter @DJB627.