The Flag, Pope Francis, Cuba and Religious Freedom

Look… Pope’s meet with all sorts of people.  That said, I direct your attention to a piece at USA Today by Nichols Hahn of Real Clear Religion.  My emphases.

Havana’s U.S. flag no victory for pope: Column

Secretary of State John Kerry’s historic flag-raising at the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Friday culminates a diplomatic accomplishment for the Obama administration and Pope Francis. But the ceremony has some irony, not all that unlike President George W. Bush’s 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech.

The island’s dissidents weren’t invited, and the pontiff who helped usher in the new relations might have been expected to side with Cuba’s persecuted faithful. But when asked about Cuba’s spotty record, Francis demurred. “I would say that in many countries of the world, human rights are not respected,” he said during a July in-flight news conference. “Religious liberty is not a reality in the entire world; there are many countries that do not allow it.”

The pope’s answer is in keeping with his May meeting in Rome with Cuban President Raul Castro. The Vatican reported that the meeting was “very friendly.” But not even a prophet could have foreseen what came next.

“If the pope continues this way, I will go back to praying and go back to the church,” the 84-year-old communist leader told an amazed gaggle of reporters after meeting in private with the pontiff for nearly an hour. “I’m not joking,” Castro assured them.

But some in Castro’s Cuba aren’t buying it. “It is a mockery for Raul Castro tell the pope that he may return to the bosom of the church and pray again,” Berta Soler told Spanish radio. Soler is the leader of the Ladies in White, a Catholic opposition movement made up of relatives of jailed human rights activists who attend Mass and silently take to the streets while wearing white.

Soler’s skepticism might have something to do with Castro’s security goons, who continue to harass and detain the Ladies and other dissidents. Just days before Kerry’s visit, the government rounded up about 50 of Soler’s Ladies. The detentions are only “further proof of the Cuban government’s intolerance towards people who think differently,” Soler told the PanAm Post.

If a recent Univision Noticias survey of Cubans is any indication, Soler is not alone in that assessment: 75% of respondents said that when it comes to politics, they “have to be careful about what to say” in public. [Rather like what the present environment in some sectors of the Church is becoming… again.] The Obama administration and Pope Francis hoped a thawing would open the political system, but more than half of Cubans polled believe politics will remain the same. Still more don’t think the Cuban government will allow other political parties to exist after a normalization of relations.

But Castro’s crackdown seems to be more about religious freedom than the ballot box. “Many times, we haven’t been able to get to church,” Soler told the National Review at this year’s Oslo Freedom Forum. “The few who actually do make it to church have been detained for over five hours. They have been beaten.” This might be why Soler is more than a little frustrated with her spiritual shepherd. “The European Union, the USA, Pope Francis — they have turned their backs on us,” she said.


Read the rest there.


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  1. cwillia1 says:

    Relations with Cuba is no diplomatic accomplishment. It is a capitulation to an evil regime in return for nothing.

    As to Pope Francis, I have nothing to say. In the past, this or that pope has betrayed faithful Catholics for political reasons. It has happened and when it happens again our faith should not be shaken.

  2. Benedict Joseph says:

    The mercy and compassion initiative does not work with those who are not disposed. That surely would be in the awareness of competent individuals in significant leadership positions. Given that reality, why would one expect it to work in the cage fight of international relations? Why, it doesn’t even work between constituencies that comprise the Church. Virile leadership with vision oriented on Jesus Christ works, not manipulative soft psychology more suited to a kitchen. “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents, and gentle as doves.”

  3. Blas says:

    And you americans be prepared to pay all the “economical damage” suffered by the “regime”. Castro want money and isgoing to sue you at every ocasion until he gets the money.

  4. The Masked Chicken says:

    It might help to review a little Western history of, oh, say, the last 60 years before anyone should feel qualified to evaluate the significance of this act. For myself, I can say that I am not surprised…saddened, but not surprised, given the liberalization of the modern world. What, really, has changed in Cuba? A lot has certainly changed in the United States. That is what this flag-raising really amounts too, probably.

    The Chicken

  5. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    iPadre asks, “WWJPII do?”

    One thing he did, was welcome H.E. Mr Raúl Roa Kourí, Ambassador of Cuba to the Holy See, with these words:

  6. chantgirl says:

    When the Pope pushed for regularizing relations with Cuba, if it wasn’t done for those on the margin (the dissidents) or religious freedom, for what purpose did he push? No matter his intentions, the optics on this are bad.

  7. Sonshine135 says:

    It is actually quite sad, and spits in the face of the thousands of Cuban refugees that moved here for a better life.

  8. Aquinas Gal says:

    The devil would go to church if all his demands were met.

  9. DonL says:

    “Religious liberty is not a reality in the entire world; there are many countries that do not allow it.”
    Is this the very same pope that uttered the words that inequality is evil?

  10. “Rather like what the present environment in some sectors of the Church is becoming… again.”

    An understatement of veritably British proportion! Can there be a faithful orthodox priest anywhere who need not be careful about speaking plain truth publicly, lest retribution by those less faithful–not only in the pews but especially in the chancery and among fellow clerics–be swift and certain?

  11. Gratias says:

    Cuba is a Marxist dictatorship that has exported communist revolutionaries throughout Latin America and Africa. Cubans are the poorest of Latin Americans and slaves to the omnipresent state. Obama and Pope Francis have legitimized the Castros dictatorship. Very sad event.

  12. SKAY says:

    Pope Francis was very interested in helping Obama.

    “MIAMI-Three months before the historic announcement in December that the U.S. would re-establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba, Havana’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega made a trip to the White House and hand delivered a letter from Pope Francis to President Barack Obama.

    The meeting was sensitive enough to be kept under the radar – the Cuban cardinal’s name did not appear in the White House visitors’ log. The pope’s letter, addressed to Obama, offered to “help in any way possible” in negotiations with Cuba.”

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