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Pope Francis Lauded on Role in New Cuba Policy

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Mark Stricherz - published on 12/18/14 - updated on 06/08/17

Obama, Castro announce release of prisoners, indicate normalizing relations.

WASHINGTON – President Obama said Pope Francis helped the United States and Cuba re-establish long-severed diplomatic ties by urging the leaders of the two countries to exchange political prisoners and one American hostage. 

“I want to thank Pope Francis, whose moral example shows the world as it should be rather than settling for how it is,” Obama said at the end of his nationally televised speech 

The president’s words represented a rare example in which an American leader went out of his way to praise a Roman Pontiff for helping broker an international agreement. 

The Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Paolin, released a statement that said representatives from the United States and Cuba met at the Vatican to discuss resuming diplomatic ties last October. 

“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 said.

Obama’s announcement means that the United States has committed to re-establishing an embassy in Cuba and having an American ambassador to the island nation. 
The United States cut diplomatic ties in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro, the retired military commander of Cuba, took control of the government in a military coup. 
“These 50 years have shown that isolation does not work. 
It’s time for a new approach,” Obama said in the address, which all four major television networks covered live.

But getting funding to build an embassy in Cuba and an ambassadorial nominee through the Senate may prove difficult. 

Key senators from both parties criticized the announcement. 
Democrat Robert Menendez of NewJersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Obama’s announcement “vindicates the brutal behavior of the Cuban government. Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, who will chair a key Foreign Relations subcommittee, said “The White House gave everything to gain very little.”

On Wednesday morning, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville met with President Obama and Vice President Biden in the Oval Office, according to Don Clemmer, a spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Archbishop 
Kurtz is president of the USCCB. Clemmer said Archbishop Kurtz requested the meeting to “discussion the priority issues of the bishops,” but provided no other details about the meeting.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Louisville was unavailable for comment.

CubaPoliticsPope Francis
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