Writing this column is hazardous. We have seen what Pope Francis has done and said on his apostolic voyage to Cuba. But we can only anticipate what he will say when he arrives in the United States.
While President Raul Castro used his welcoming remarks in Havana to exploit the achievements of socialism, Pope Francis used the opportunity to call for more freedom in the Caribbean island.
The Holy Father extolled the progress that has been made in the reconciliation of the Church and state government of Cuba and he praised the recent rapprochement between the island nation and the United States. He called for even more freedom for the Church so that it will have the “means and space needed to bring the proclamation of the kingdom to the existential peripheries of society.”
The growth of the Church and the service that it can provide to Cuba, in terms of social development, is needed and desired by the government there. The non-confrontational method of dialogue between church and state has resulted in the Church finding itself in a place where it can make a significant contribution to the Cuban society.
The Holy Father further asked the Cuban government to further open itself to the world and not be a slave to political ideologies that close itself off to its neighbors.
Such also was the desire of St. John Paul II when he visited Cuba and pleaded, “May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself to the world, and may the world open itself to Cuba.”
Pope Francis has proven himself to be a master diplomat. He has brought the U.S. and Cuba closer together by brokering the talks that have led to a new day in Cuban-American relations. The pictures that have come from Cuba these past days show that this is a pope who is well liked in Cuba by the people and its government leaders.
It’s going to be tough for the Cuban socialist leaders to reconcile with former enemies, even though it is in the best economic and social interests of the country. President Castro criticized the world nations that have boycotted his island and condemned the “current international system” as unfair and immoral. He blames the poverty of Cuba on the industrial world and condemns “the idol of money.”
But he fails to see the self-destructive values that his own regime has inflicted on a previously free people. He overlooks the persecution of religion, the prohibition of personal freedom and the destruction of free initiatives as the reasons for his country’s failure to move ahead. He forgets the illegal alliances his country once made with the Soviet Union and the isolation that brought upon his people.
Castro has an ally in the pope in his condemnation of radical capitalism. But capitalism in itself provides a road map to prosperity for all and the common good of the world. Unbridled capitalism is what the pope is talking about, not necessarily the type of capitalism practiced here in the Free World. Even the Holy Father has said that he does not fully understand American capitalism, but he hopes to enter into a fuller dialogue with us as he visits our nation for the first time.
The pope’s concerns are not ideological ones. His concern is for all people, making sure that the poor and those who fall behind are not forgotten. His vision is one of reconciliation among all nations so that all can rise up and help one another.
Pope Francis has brought his unique form of diplomatic dialogues to the New World. Hopefully, this past week will go down in history as a turning point when peoples gave up tired, worn-out ideas and began to work together in harmony.