Category Archives: Pope Francis in Cuba

Jorge Ramos: Pope Francis and President Obama are the best friends that Cuba’s dictatorship could hope for



Pope Francis and President Obama are the best friends that Cuba could hope for. Both leaders have resolved to ally with the Castro regime, despite its decades long record of repression, censorship and human rights violations. The mystery is why.

Raul Castro, like his brother Fidel, is on the wrong side of history. But perhaps Obama and the pope are betting that by getting close to this regime, they can work to free the island from tyranny. If that’s their ultimate strategy, however, they aren’t saying.

Obama’s visit to Cuba next month could be his very own “Nixon moment.” In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon, with the crucial assistance of Henry Kissinger, embarked on his historic visit to China, which resulted in opening up the secretive Asian giant to the rest of the world. But just as Nixon’s trip didn’t transform China into a democracy, Obama’s visit to Cuba won’t bring about multiparty elections, the release of political prisoners, or more press freedoms. But it could mark the beginning of a long-term strategy that goes far beyond the reopening of American embassies.

Obama is taking a lot of criticism for his Cuba strategy. Years from now, though, I hope I can interview Obama and have him admit that his goal all along in normalizing relations was to help bring real democracy to Cuba. Sooner rather than later, perhaps, the people of Cuba will force the Castro regime to face justice. Perhaps Cuba’s aging leaders will answer for their crimes before they’re gone. It’s a shame to see a dictator die in a comfortable bed rather than in a prison cell—as was the case with Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and Francisco Franco of Spain. We’ll have to wait and see.

Pope Francis’ overtures to the Castro regime have likewise disappointed people who yearn for change in Cuba. In his tenure as pontiff, Francis has visited the island twice, both times greeting the brothers Castro as legitimate rulers and ignoring their despotic past. As I mentioned last week, it was especially galling to watch the arrest of a Cuban activist who tried to speak to Francis as the pope visited Cuba in September. As plainclothes security agents pushed the young man to the ground and dragged him away, Francis said nothing.

While he was in Cuba, the pope also failed to meet with prominent dissident groups such as the Ladies in White. Nor did he speak with independent journalists like the popular blogger Yoani Sanchez. Rather than interact with those who dare raise their voices against oppression, Francis seemingly prefers to remain silent.

While he vigorously speaks out against immigration abuses and the excesses of capitalism in the U.S., he won’t make the same kind of criticisms in Cuba or Latin America. I find it incomprehensible that, in his visit to Mexico earlier this month, Francis didn’t meet the victims of pedophile priests, or the relatives of the 43 students missing college students from Ayotzinapa, presumably murdered by a drug gang. Instead, he preferred to meet with governors from states where journalists are murdered and where the killings of women are tolerated.

Both the pope and the president can do much to foster a democratic transition in Cuba. But the images of those leaders shaking hands with the island’s dictators du jour are hard to stomach. That’s especially true of the pope, who, as an Argentine, witnessed firsthand how heinous a military dictatorship can be.

I would love to be in Cuba when Obama visits, but the Cuban government has blocked me from entering the country since 1998, when I covered Pope John Paul II’s visit there. They apparently didn’t approve of my interviewing political dissidents and independent journalists. If Cuba is interested in opening up to the world, the Castro regime should immediately lift restrictions against foreign journalists and stop trying to impose its agenda on the global press.

I’ll watch Obama’s visit on television and the Internet, though I’d much rather be there in person to see whether Cuba has changed, whether its leaders are more tolerant and whether the nation is more free. Of course, as any bartender can tell you, ‘Cuba Libre’ is an oxymoron. For now, anyway.

Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is the host of Fusion’s new television news show, “America With Jorge Ramos,” and is a news anchor on the Univision Network. Originally from Mexico and now based in Florida, Ramos is the author of nine best-selling books, most recently, “A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.”

Our Man – in Havana?


The Catholic Thing

The meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis on Friday in Havana was a pivotal moment in relations between Western and Eastern Christianity. It’s also the culmination of decades-long efforts to get Europe to “breathe with both lungs,” as St. John Paul II said. And in several respects, it owes a great deal to particular qualities of Pope Francis, for both good and ill.

Francis’s public persona gets much praise, and criticism (on this page, as elsewhere) from people who think he’s confusing and is putting crucial Catholic doctrines in jeopardy. Both charges are correct – sometimes – but there’s more to the story. He has a gift for bringing people together – yes, not always with the necessary clarity or caution. But in this instance, he mostly did very well. With one serious misstep, of which more below.

The meeting probably would have been harder to arrange if the pope were a Western European. JPII, a Pole, knew the Slavic world well. Benedict XVI profoundly understood the theological differences between East and West. Both made overtures towards the Orthodox. But a Latin American pope made things less starkly East/West.

It’s worth reading the Joint Declaration that was signed in Cuba. It starts by strongly regretting millennium-old divisions within the Church, which Christ Himself prayed would be one, as He and the Father are one. And adopts a fraternal tone – something even factions within Catholicism and Orthodoxy don’t always use towards one another – seeking closer relations and common action.

That’s a genuine religious advance, but it’s also a response to the public challenges all Christians face today: “Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.”

First, in urgency (and the text) is persecution, martyrdom, and wholesale genocide of Christians, in the Middle East, Africa, etc. Many believe that was the primary motivation for the meeting.

Continue reading Our Man – in Havana?

Unease in Ukraine at church leaders’ Cuba talks


The Irish Times

Kiev churches see Kremlin agenda behind parts of declaration by pope and patriarch

Religious leaders in Ukraine have expressed alarm over a historic first meeting between the heads of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, which Moscow hailed as a “shining example” of dialogue in the shadow of a new cold war.
Almost 1,000 years after the split between eastern and western branches of Christianity, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill met at Havana airport in Cuba, and called for unity and for the protection of Christian communities in the Middle East.
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said Friday’s talks were “a shining example” of peaceful engagement between Moscow and western powers that have “slipped into a new cold war”.
The meeting was viewed very differently in Ukraine, where a pro-Western revolution and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels have thrown fuel onto long-smouldering religious fires. Ukraine’s troubled history has bequeathed a complex religious life.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s Orthodox Church split into a Kiev Patriarchate, which is a strong supporter of the country’s independence and its pivot to the west, and a Moscow Patriarchate that is much closer to Russia.
Seeking to convert
Ukraine’s second-largest denomination is the Greek Catholic Church, which practices Orthodox-style rites but sees the pope as its spiritual leader, and is accused by the Russian Orthodox Church of seeking to convert its members.
The Kiev Patriarchate and Greek Catholic Church have fiercely criticised Russia’s meddling in Ukraine and role in a conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people and displaced more than two million. In 2014 Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Kiev Patriarchate, said Russian president Vladimir Putin appeared to have fallen under the spell of Satan and faced “eternal damnation”.
Patriarch Kirill once likened Mr Putin’s long rule to “a miracle from God” and, when Mr Putin addressed Russia’s top military officers and defence officials in December, the patriarch sat among them in the front row.
Several of the 30 points in the joint declaration agreed by the pope and patriarch raised hackles in Ukraine, where the hurriedly arranged Havana talks were widely seen as a Kremlin bid to improve Russia’s image.
The declaration’s call for the split in Ukrainian Orthodoxy to be “overcome through existing canonical norms” seemed to echo the Moscow Patriarchate’s claim to be the sole legitimate Orthodox authority in the country. “Since the Munich Agreement, the principle of ‘deciding about us, without us’ has stunk,” said archbishop Yevstratii, a spokesman for the Kiev Patriarchate, referring to western powers’ 1938 concession of parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler’s Germany.
Ukraine conflict
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said the communiqué ignored the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for the Kremlin’s campaign to foment conflict in Ukraine.
“Today it is a generally known fact that if military servicemen and heavy weapons had not come from Russia to Ukrainian land, and if the Russian Orthodox Church had not blessed the idea of the ‘Russian world’ . . . then the annexation of Crimea and this war would not have happened at all,” he said.

The Pope said in México what he was afraid to say in Cuba


Pope Francis landed in México on Saturday and immediately criticized the Mexican government, something he was afraid or unwilling to do, when he was in Castro’s Cuba.

“Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development,” Francis told government authorities at the presidential palace.

The pope began Saturday by meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto at the presidential palace. He told the president and other members of government that public officials must be honest and upright and not be seduced by privilege or corruption.

Francis said political leaders have a “particular duty” to ensure their people have “indispensable” material and spiritual goods: “adequate housing, dignified employment, food, true justice, effective security, a healthy and peaceful environment.”

As we all know, including Pope Francis, none of that exists in Cuba, but he kept his mouth shut all the time that he was a guest in Castro’s slave farm.

Shame on him!

You can read the while thing here