Castro praises Pope for US rapprochement in Vatican visit

Raul Castro thanks Pope Francis for his role in mediating secret negotiations between Cuba and US, leading to start of diplomatic after decades

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Cuban President Raul Castro met Pope Francis on Sunday at the Vatican and thanked hif for his role in mediating the recent rapprochement between the United States and Cuba.

First Latin American Pope played an important role in brokering an 18-month long secret negotiations between Cuba and the US, which led the start  of diplomatic between the two countries following an announcement by Barack Obama, where he also thanked the Pontiff.

"Raul Castro thanked the Pope for his mediation between Cuba and the United States," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

Papo rarely hosts foreign leaders on Sundays, but made an exception for Castro when he asked for an audience on his way from Moscow to Rome, where he also met Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

"I told the prime minister if the pope continues to talk as he does, sooner or later I will start praying again and return to the Catholic Church, and I am not kidding," Castro told reporters after his meeting with Renzi.

Cuban Communist Party suppressed Church's activities for decades after the 1959 revolution, but started loosening restrictions in 1990’s.

Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998 and met with Fidel Castro, who reinstated Christmas as a holiday in the same year.

Pope Francis is expected to visit Cuba in September, just before his visit to the US.

"When the pope comes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses and I will be happy to do so," Castro said.

Castro added that he was “really impressed by his wisdom and his modesty.”

Francis will be the third Pope to visit Cuba after his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

TRTWorld and agencies