1. Main
  2. Learn
  3. Politics
  4. Politics

Castro at Vatican thanks pope for mediating thaw with US

Castro at Vatican thanks pope for mediating thaw with US Castro at Vatican thanks pope for mediating thaw with US

 Cuban President Raul Castro met with Pope Francis at the Vatican Sunday, thanking the pontiff for his role in brokering an historic rapprochement between Havana and Washington, a papal spokesman said, AFP reports.

"Raul Castro thanked the Pope for his mediation between Cuba and the United States," said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi of the exchange that also focused on Francis' upcoming visit to Cuba.

The first South American pope played a key role in secret negotiations between the United States and Cuba, which led to the surprise announcement in December that the two countries would seek to restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 years of tensions.

During the meeting Castro offered the pontiff a painting by Cuban artist Kcho inspired by the plight of illegal immigrants stranded at sea -- a subject close to the pope's heart.

Francis in turn presented Castro a medal of Saint Martin de Tours, a French saint celebrated for having given his coat to a beggar, and urged others to "clothe and support the poor."

Castro, who was accompanied by his Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, held a private hour-long meeting with the pontiff in a small room adjoining the Paul VI Audience Hall, where large gatherings are held in the Vatican.

Their discussions, conducted in Spanish, were described by the Vatican as "very cordial".

    Castro a Francis fan 

 Castro said he was "very struck" by the Catholic leader's "modesty and wisdom" and promised to attend all the masses given by Francis on his Cuba visit in September.

"I read all the Holy Father's speeches," Castro said, adding that if the pope "continues to speak in this way, one day I will start praying again and return to the Catholic Church. And I'm not saying that as a joke."

Pope Francis arrived ten minutes ahead of Castro.

A dozen uniformed Swiss Guards stood to attention in front of the building when the limousine bearing the Cuban flag arrived.

The Holy See has revealed the Argentine pope personally mediated between the US and Cuba, and that the Vatican hosted delegations from the two countries in October.

The Vatican announced last month that Pope Francis would visit the Caribbean island in September, becoming only the third pontiff to do so after John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012.

Jorge Bergoglio, then auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires and now Pope Francis, accompanied John Paul II on the first papal visit to Cuba, during which John Paul II called for Havana to be brought in from the cold.

"Let Cuba open itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba," he urged, two years after hosting Castro's ailing older brother Fidel for talks at the Vatican.

From Cuba, Francis will continue on to the US for a meeting with President Barack Obama.

Castro's Vatican visit, announced only Tuesday, followed a visit to Russia, where the Cuban leader attended a grandiose World War II victory parade on Saturday.

He was to meet Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome later on Sunday.

The Catholic Church has consistently backed calls for the lifting of the US trade embargo against Cuba, while staunchly supporting Cuban Catholics and pressuring Havana to release political prisoners, many of whom are Catholic activists.

The Vatican has also kept its distance from Cuban exiles based in Miami, Florida, who have long clamoured for Havana's Marxist regime to be ousted.

When the now retired Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012, he had lengthy, warm talks with Fidel Castro, who is now 88.

The Vatican's mediation between Cuba and the US administration was a diplomatic success for the Holy See and had a considerable impact in mainly Catholic Latin America.

Other diplomatic efforts have been less successful, including a bid to help resolve the political crisis in Venezuela and a longstanding drive to encourage reconciliation between the Colombian government and guerrilla movements in that country.


Nobel prizewinner proposes a new city in KZ
New abnormal snowfalls expected in Kazakhstan
Huge glacier retreat triggered in 1940s
Hyperloop construction begins in Las Vegas
"Moonlight" to top Spirit Awards nominations
Oil prices fall due to investors uncertainty
New dwarf galaxy discovered around Milky Way
Kanat Islam becomes a top ten WBO boxer
World oil prices continue to rise
Kazakhstan expects warming - Kazhydromet
Merkel to seek fourth term as chancellor
Sale of Tintin drawings set to break records
US, EU stocks fall as markets focus on dollar
Pacific leaders urged to defend free trade
EU warns eight nations on budget deficit
Universiade-2017: Athletic Village is ready
Bob Dylan can't make Nobel ceremony
Messi will never leave Barca - club president
Google, Facebook take aim at 'fake' news
Aerosmith announces Europe 'farewell' tour
Putin, Trump to normalise US-Russia ties
At least 10 hurt in southern Turkey blast
6.2 quake hits western Japan
OPEC agrees shock oil output cut
Israeli ex-president and Nobel laureate Peres dies
Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook
32,000 arrested in Turkey coup probe
Youth to the fore as Milan fashion week opens
Xenophobia threatening peace in eastern Germany
Four-in-10 Japanese are virgins: poll
Sweden re-militarises Baltic island of Gotland
China to launch second space laboratory: Xinhua
More than a billion stars mapped in Milky Way: ESA
Boxing: Golovkin eyes Saunders after stopping Brook
Kazakhstan shifts PM to security chief
Oil prices gain despite rising OPEC supply forecast
US to give Philippines military planes
Singapore wages war on Zika-bearing mosquitoes
Italy quake death toll nears 250
Viral photos add fuel to French burkini debate
18 dead as Italy struck by powerful quake
Japan's first lady visits Pearl Harbor
Pokemon's a no-go on Bangkok's roads
July was Earth's hottest month in modern times
Pakistan rock climbers scale new heights