Pope Francis helped make U.S.-Cuba deal a reality

The deal to re-establish diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba might not have become a reality had it not been for the involvement of one leader: Pope Francis. In a conference call with reporters, a senior administration official explained the key role Pope Francis played in helping broker the U.S.-Cuba deal, which also included the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross who had been jailed in Cuba for five years. SEE ALSO: Obama says ‘it’s time for a new approach’ on Cuba “Pope Francis personally issued an appeal through a letter he sent to President Obama and to President Raul Castro, calling on them to resolve the case of Alan Gross and the cases of the three Cubans who’ve been imprisoned here in the United States and also encouraging the United States and Cuba to pursue a closer relationship,” the official said. “The Vatican then hosted the U.S. and Cuban delegations where we were able to review the commitments that we’re making today.” The senior administration official said the appeal from the Pope was “very rare” and unprecedented. “We haven’t received communications like this from the Pope that I’m aware of,” the official added. In a 15-minute speech on Wednesday, Obama thanked Pope Francis for his engagement in talks between American and Cuban officials. “In particular, I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be rather than simply settling for the world as it is,” the president said. Castro also thanked Pope Francis for his work to help improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The news about the U.S. and Cuba agreeing to restore diplomatic ties came the same day Pope Francis was celebrating his 78th birthday. He began his day watching as thousands of tango dancers gathered at St Peter’s Square to wish him a happy birthday and ended his day hearing the news on the U.S.-Cuba deal. The Vatican released a statement Wednesday congratulating the U.S. and Cuba for re-establishing diplomatic relations. It also confirmed that Pope Francis wrote letters to Obama and Castro earlier this year and that the Vatican hosted delegations from the U.S. and Cuba in October. In addition, the Vatican stated that Pope Francis “will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens.” SEE ALSO: US-Cuba relations after President Obama’s speech According to a White House official, the engagement of Pope Francis was particularly important given the esteem with which many Americans and Cubans hold the Catholic Church and also given that Pope Francis was the first-ever pope to be elected from Latin America. The official also said that when Obama met with Pope Francis in March, the U.S. relations with Cuba was among the top issues they discussed. “President Obama has enormous respect for Pope Francis and his personal engagement in this was important to us,” the official added.The post Pope Francis helped make U.S.-Cuba deal a reality appeared first on Voxxi.

Pope Francis leaves St. Peter’s Square at the end of his weekly audience on December 10, 2014, in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

The deal to re-establish diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba might not have become a reality had it not been for the involvement of one leader: Pope Francis.

In a conference call with reporters, a senior administration official explained the key role Pope Francis played in helping broker the U.S.-Cuba deal, which also included the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross who had been jailed in Cuba for five years.

SEE ALSO: Obama says ‘it’s time for a new approach’ on Cuba

“Pope Francis personally issued an appeal through a letter he sent to President Obama and to President Raul Castro, calling on them to resolve the case of Alan Gross and the cases of the three Cubans who’ve been imprisoned here in the United States and also encouraging the United States and Cuba to pursue a closer relationship,” the official said. “The Vatican then hosted the U.S. and Cuban delegations where we were able to review the commitments that we’re making today.”

The senior administration official said the appeal from the Pope was “very rare” and unprecedented. “We haven’t received communications like this from the Pope that I’m aware of,” the official added.

In a 15-minute speech on Wednesday, Obama thanked Pope Francis for his engagement in talks between American and Cuban officials.

“In particular, I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be rather than simply settling for the world as it is,” the president said.

Castro also thanked Pope Francis for his work to help improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

The news about the U.S. and Cuba agreeing to restore diplomatic ties came the same day Pope Francis was celebrating his 78th birthday. He began his day watching as thousands of tango dancers gathered at St Peter’s Square to wish him a happy birthday and ended his day hearing the news on the U.S.-Cuba deal.

The Vatican released a statement Wednesday congratulating the U.S. and Cuba for re-establishing diplomatic relations. It also confirmed that Pope Francis wrote letters to Obama and Castro earlier this year and that the Vatican hosted delegations from the U.S. and Cuba in October.

In addition, the Vatican stated that Pope Francis “will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens.”

SEE ALSO: US-Cuba relations after President Obama’s speech

According to a White House official, the engagement of Pope Francis was particularly important given the esteem with which many Americans and Cubans hold the Catholic Church and also given that Pope Francis was the first-ever pope to be elected from Latin America.

The official also said that when Obama met with Pope Francis in March, the U.S. relations with Cuba was among the top issues they discussed.

“President Obama has enormous respect for Pope Francis and his personal engagement in this was important to us,” the official added.

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The post Pope Francis helped make U.S.-Cuba deal a reality appeared first on Voxxi.