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Pope Francis Visits Cuba, Headed for U.S.

Pope Francis Visits Cuba, Headed for U.S.
September 22
11:03 2015

The whole world watched on Saturday as Pope Francis arrived to the communist island of Cuba for a three-day stay. He stepped off the plane to a welcoming crowd, continuing to smile even as the wind blew the hat right off his head.

Thousands turned out on Sunday, September 20th to attend Pope Francis’ Mass in Revolution Square. Raul Castro, a man who does not practice any religion, was in attendance. “If the Pope continues talking like this,” said Castro, “I may return to the church and start praying again.”

The Pope even paid a personal visit to the Castro brothers after his Sunday Mass, exchanging gifts with Fidel and Raul and voicing his approval of Cuba’s reestablished relations with the United States, something he considers a model for worldwide reconciliation.

“I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities as a proof of the high service which they are called to carry out on behalf of the peace and well-being of their peoples, of all America, and as an example of reconciliation for the entire world,” said the Pope.

Pope Francis gave another Mass Monday in Holguin, calling for more religious freedom for Catholic Cubans and asking his audience to serve people, not ideas.

The Pope expressed criticism of the Castro brothers during a speech in which he invoked the name Jose Martí – a figure not unlike George Washington who died during the war for independence in 1895.

These subtle critiques weren’t enough for many conservatives, now frustrated, who were hoping for blatant statements about the evils of communism. Others believe that Pope Francis’ views on wealth and poverty make him somewhat of a communist himself.

GOP candidate Chris Christie echoed this sentiment on Sunday during an interview with CNN. “I just think the Pope is wrong,” said Catholic Christie. “The fact is that his infallibility is on religious matters, not on political ones.”

pope and raul

Pope Francis with Raul Castro

The Pope’s visit is a momentous occasion not just for the Catholic community, but also for the country of Cuba. Let’s not forget that Cuba is a socialist state led by an atheist. Fidel Castro sought to put an end to religion when he took over in 1959. Those who stayed in Cuba saw their religious freedoms stifled. The situation didn’t improve until the 1980s.

Cuba took a great leap forward in 1992 when it decided to remove its atheistic characterization. The Pope’s visit is another step in the right direction, especially for a country in which 59% of inhabitants identify as Christian.

Pope Francis will continue his tour with a visit to Washington, D.C. on September 22nd. From there he will move on to New York and Philadelphia. His tour schedule reminds us that Pope Francis had an important role in the thawing of Cuba-U.S. relations and has long been urging the two countries to play nice.

His plans for the U.S. involve meeting the homeless in D.C., visiting a Catholic school in Harlem, hosting an inter-religious gathering at Ground Zero, and speaking to prisoners in Philadelphia.
On September 24th Pope Francis will become the first Pope to address both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The following day he will speak to the UN General Assembly, likely bringing up ideas from his recent environmental encyclical “Laudato Si” in an effort to send those ideas along to the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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