“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.” -Matthew 5:9
These words said by Jesus reflect what we have learned today. Pope Francis had a major role in helping Cuba and the United States of America restore diplomatic ties. For over half a century, both nations had a tense relationship. An embargo was placed on Cuba by the United States in hopes of pressuring Cuba’s regime to succumb and dissolve; however, this never happened. Fidel Castro remained in power and left it to his brother Raul Castro.
Since the beginning of his presidency, Obama made it clear that he would try things differently. This would anger Republicans and others who see Obama’s way of thinking as being too “soft” in regards to international policy. Despite this, both nations of Cuba and the United States sought the help of the Vatican to broker a deal, and it worked! Pope Francis along with Canada worked hard to get both sides to agree. Alan P. Gross, an American held by Cuban officials was released in exchange for Cuban spies held in America. Travel restrictions were relaxed a bit with the exception of tourism. Americans who do visit Cuban are allowed to bring $100 worth of Cuban goods which include rum and cigars which are major products of Cuba.
Many younger Cubans welcome this move, but older ones do not fearing it is not changing anything. Republicans are also upset and even Democratic politician Bob Melendez who is Cuban. He claims that he was never informed of these secret talks and feels that Obama is sending the message to the world that Americans can be taken hostage and will get a good deal for them, so to speak. Another Cuban-American politician Marco Rubio attacked Pope Francis saying that he should “take up the cause of freedom and democracy.” Rubio of course is speaking out of ignorance. He does not understand that the Pope has to be a man of peace. The Pope is not “for” democracy or any political ideology. He is “for” God and God’s children. This means that he must build bridges to link God’s children to God and one another. The Pope has no time to play Republican vs Democrat like Rubio does. Pope Francis is concerned about people and keeping peace, not engaging in childish battles or separating humanity.
Ironically, today is the Pope’s birthday! What a gift he has received of two nations once at each other’s “throats,” are now establishing diplomacy. It was amazing to see both president Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro give televised speeches regarding this deal and thanking Pope Francis. Hopefully this will show ignorant atheists that religion does not start wars. While atheists such as Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, Hermant Mehta and others use their platforms to promote diatribe, hatred and division; the Pope is trying to get everyone to get along with each other.
We must thank Saint John Paul II as well for opening up the door to this change. His visit in the late 1990’s chipped away at Cuba’s tough regime. John Paul of course was the man who brought down Communism in Europe so it makes sense for him to have been the one to start the process of dissolving Communism in Cuba. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is not far off. He continued to crack open the spot where John Paul II struck at with the shepherd’s staff.
Change takes time. I understand the anger some have over this deal, but we must wake up to the fact that the policies that were the status quo were not working. Perhaps this new open diplomacy can aid in the transformation of the Cuban government into something that respects human rights and is compatible with democracy. Democracy itself is not perfect and has its flaws. Nevertheless, let us continue to pray for Cuba.
Pope Francis is now the new Leader of the Free World!