The Pope and the Presidents
Pope Francis played a key role in bringing about yesterday’s landmark announcement of the renewal of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States after over 50 years of “Cold War”.
According to a Vatican statement Pope Francis wrote to both presidents in the summer, inviting 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." As Presidents Barak Obama and Raul Castro made simultaneous announcements, both thanked the pope for helping the broker the historic deal. President Obama said:
“I want in particular to thank his Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.”
President Castro echoed the sentiment: "I want to thank the support of Pope Francis for the improvement of relations between Cuba and the U.S."
Officials have confirmed that Pope Francis first brought up the subject of Cuba during his meeting with Obama in March. Vatican officials were said to be the only other country represented during talks between Cuba and the US, some of which took place at the Vatican in October.
The Holy See issued the following statement of behalf of Pope Francis: "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."
The statement concludes: "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."
A prisoner exchange involving at least six individuals has taken place.