Tag Archives: Pope Francis

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


Pope Francis thanks a mass murderer for his hospitality

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cuban dictator Raúl Castro yesterday, thanking him for his ‘hospitality’ during his stopover in Cuba to meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

Francis, who calls himself a “missionary of mercy and peace” referred to the Cuban dictator as ‘Mr. President’. I wonder who elected him since the criminal Castro brothers  have never allowed a free election in Cuba in 57 years.

Maybe Francis and Obama think that they can give any title they want to anyone who they like, no matter how many people that individual has murdered.

Here is Raúl Castro preparing to murder a poor campesino in the Sierra Maestra:


And here is a photo of a mass murder of dozens of innocent Cubans, ordered by that same criminal that Francis calls ‘president’:


And here is the text of the telegram from Francis to the Cuban tyrant, according to the Vatican:

12 February 2016



The Disastrous Cuba Deal—One Year On


By Stephen Flurry, The Trumpet

When United States President Barack Obama reestablished full diplomatic relations with the Castro regime in Cuba in December 2014, he said it would advance U.S. interests and engage and empower the Cuban people. At the U.S. flag-raising ceremony in Havana in August, Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal would help ease restrictions on Cuban entrepreneurs, as well as improve family communications and travel. He urged the Cuban government to do its part in making it less difficult for Cuban citizens to start businesses, engage in trade, and access the Internet.

“The goal of all these changes is to help Cubans connect to the world and improve their lives,” Kerry said. It’s only been six months since Secretary Kerry made those remarks, and already the Washington Post editorial board is calling the Cuba deal a “failure.”

There is “scant evidence” of any sea change in Cuba, the Post wrote—“perhaps because Mr. Obama continues to offer the Castro regime unilateral concessions requiring nothing in return” (emphasis added).

The Obama administration used the same strategy on the Iran nuclear deal—unilateral concessions requiring little or nothing in return. How long will it be before the world awakens to the failure of the nuclear deal?

In Cuba, the deal that was supposed to help Cuban people has instead empowered a ruthless Communist regime. As the Washington Post noted, “Autocrats everywhere must be watching with envy the Castros’ good fortune.”

Over the past year, the Castro brothers have actually cracked down on dissidents promoting democracy in Cuba! And the only businesses benefiting from “improved” relations with the U.S. are state-run institutions.

Continue reading The Disastrous Cuba Deal—One Year On

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next Friday


The Washington Post

En Español Infobae

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba for the first time next Friday as part of an effort to heal a schism that has divided Christianity between East and West for nearly 1,000 years.

The meeting, the first ever between a sitting pope and Russian patriarch, will take place at José Martí International Airport, where the two will sign a joint declaration. Pope Francis will fly to Cuba before traveling on to Mexico for a six-day tour of the country.

“This meeting of the Primates of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, after a long preparation, will be the first in history and will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches,” said a joint press release.

“The Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate hope that it will also be a sign of hope for all people of good will. They invite all Christians to pray fervently for God to bless this meeting, that it may bear good fruits,” it added.

Patriarch Kirill is scheduled to arrive next Thursday in Havana for an 11-day tour of South America, which will also include stops in Paraguay, Chile, and Rio de Janeiro and Sãn Paulo in Brazil.

The meeting would culminate decades of overtures seeking to bridge suspicions and rifts that span both historical and contemporary grievances, which have so far blocked any papal visit to Russia.

Among the obstacles that have complicated deeper dialogue are long-held claims by Moscow that the Roman Catholics have been seeking to expand Rome-affiliated churches in traditional Christian Orthodox areas.

Eastern Rite churches — which retain Orthodox traditions but are loyal to the Vatican — have been one of the thorniest issues blocking attempts to heal the divisions between the world’s Roman Catholics and more than 200 million Orthodox.

Orthodox Christians are spread among various churches and patriarches. But the Russian church is the largest and carries major influence among the Orthodox heirarchy.

Although Catholics and Orthodox remain estranged on other issues — including married clergy and the centralized power of the Vatican — there have been significant moves over the generations toward closer interactions and understanding.

The first major breakthrough came in 1964 when Pope Paul VI met in Jerusalem with Patriarch Athenagoras in the first encounter between a pope and Orthodox patriarch in more than 500 years. The meeting led to the lifting of mutual excommunication edicts and the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Declaration of 1965 that called for greater harmony among the churches.

An apostolic letter by John Paul II in 1995 encouraged unity between the two branches of Christianity and opened the way for a historic visit to Rome by Bartholomew I, who is based in Istanbul and is considered the “first among equals” of the Orthodox patriarchs.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II made a landmark trip to mostly Orthodox Greece and issued an apology for the ravages of the Fourth Crusade, which in the early 13th century sacked Constantinople, now Istanbul, the seat of the Eastern church.

In 2006, Benedict XVI was hosted by the Bartholomew, known as the ecumenical patriarchate, in Istanbul in a visit that brought protests from some archconservative Orthodox but generally opened room for more exchanges.

The Cuba encounter also appears to show evolving views by the Kremlin toward the Vatican under Francis, the first pope from Latin America, who has been critical of Western-style capitalism and other social ills.

The Vatican has been careful with its comments against Russia’s actions in Ukraine, including its annexation of Ukraine in 2014, but has indirectly criticized Moscow and others over failures to end Syria’s civil war. Russia is a key backer of Syria’s government and last year began airstrikes to aid Syrian forces.

Previous pontiffs, meanwhile, have been appraised with a possibily harsher eye by the Kremlin. The Polish-born Pope John Paul II directly challenged the former Soviet Union during his early years in his papacy. His successor, Benedict, was often seen through the prism of his former role as the Vatican’s chief overseer of Catholic doctrine.

Abandoned by the Pope, Will Cuba’s Political Prisoners Abandon All Hope?

Pope Francis holds his pastoral staff as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, where a sculpture of revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara and a Cuban flag decorate a nearby government building. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

By Nat Hentoff This article appeared on Cato.org on October 14, 2015.

In my last column, I reported on the suffering of Cuba’s dissidents and political prisoners, which has only increased since President Obama normalized relations.

The reconciliation between Cuba and the United States was facilitated by Pope Francis and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of Cuba. On Oct. 1, 2014, I wrote a column titled “Pope Francis’ Admirable War on Poverty.”

It is with regret that I must now write that by abandoning Cuba’s political prisoners, Pope Francis bears some responsibility for their increased suffering.

The PanAm Post, an online magazine covering the Americas, reported that prior to the Pope’s visit to Cuba, a list of political prisoners was sent to the Vatican by Nelis Rojas de Morales — secretary of the International Coordinator of Former Cuban Political Prisoners. Cuban human rights groups were therefore stunned when Cardinal Ortega, the architect of the Pope’s visit, denied the very existence of political prisoners in Cuba during two interviews with Spanish language media.

In an interview held in Rome, and published on March 30 in the Spanish language Catholic magazine Nueva Vida (New Life), Cardinal Ortega denied that there were any political prisoners in Cuba. Two months later, on June 5, Cardinal Ortega told Spain’s Cadena Ser radio that “there are no political prisoners on the island; just common criminals.”

“The dissidents, those that are called dissidents, are more present in the foreign press, in south Florida, and in blogs,” he said

Elizardo Sanchez, leader of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), contested Cardinal Ortega’s claim that there were no political prisoners left in Cuba. According to the PanAm Post, the CCDHRN identified at least two dozen prisoners serving long sentences for peaceful political activities, 13 of whom were members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Cuba’s largest dissident organization.

The Catholic Register reported that Jose Daniel Ferrer — general coordinator of Cuba’s Patriotic Union (UNPACU) — “wrote an open letter to Pope Francis Sept. 3 asking him to ‘intercede and take up the defense of the rights of the oppressed in Cuba.’”

Damas de Blanco (“Ladies in White”) leader Berta Soler told Reuters that she would like to “discuss with the Pope the need to stop police violence against those who exercise their freedom to demonstrate in public.”

Earlier this summer, she reiterated to the PanAm Post that “the Catholic Church … should protect and shelter every suffering, defenseless person.”

Although the Cuban government released over 3,000 prison inmates prior to the Pope’s arrival, none of them were political prisoners. Reuters reported that in August, the month before the Pope’s visit, Cuban police detained 768 dissidents for peaceful political activity, the highest monthly total in 2015. The arbitrary detentions continued during the Pope’s visit. Berta Soler was prevented from attending the Pope’s appearances, while three members of UNPACU were dragged off, detained and have since disappeared after they tried to approach the Pope.

The closest that Pope Francis ever came to acknowledging the existence of political prisoners in Cuba was an oblique reference — during his welcoming ceremony in Havana — that he “would like my greeting to embrace especially all those who, for various reasons, I will not be able to meet.” The Pope’s greeting resonated with the impact of a tree falling in an empty forest with no one left to hear it.

Defenders of both Pope Francis and Cardinal Ortega have likened their non-confrontational approach to the Castro regime with the spirit of reconciliation exemplified by the ministry of Jesus Christ. Yet the stubborn denial that there are no political prisoners suffering in Cuba’s jails — and equating the defense of human rights with a partisan political agenda — seems a far cry from the ministry of Jesus.

The Bible gives an account of Jesus appearing in “the Temple courts” and advocating on behalf of a woman accused of adultery brought before him by “the teachers of the law and the Pharisees” (New International Version, John 8: 1-11). Jesus stood between the woman and the stone throwers and challenged the unjust law that required her to be stoned to death.

Even atheists like me can acknowledge that the historical Jesus became the world’s most famous political prisoner through his detention, his public humiliation and his suffering. As Christians, Pope Francis and Cardinal Ortega might well remember — in their future dealings with the Castro regime — that Jesus welcomed the righteous into heaven with the greeting: “I was in prison and you came to visit me … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:31-46).