News

Pope Benedict Meets With Fidel Castro in Cuba

In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI meets with Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, March 28, 2012.
In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI meets with Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, March 28, 2012.

Pope Benedict has met with Cuba's former leader and revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, shortly the pontiff called for greater religious freedom on the island.

A Vatican spokesman said the meeting Wednesday occurred after the pope's outdoor mass in Havana's Revolution Plaza. The mass capped his first papal visit to Cuba.

On Wednesday morning, tens of thousands of Cubans filled the plaza that marks the island's communist revolution, with some holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the blazing sun.

A VOA reporter on the scene quoted some in the crowd as saying they thought it was great that Pope Benedict was in Cuba, but they do not expect his visit will have any effect on the country's political system.

The pope used his homily to praise the steps taken in Cuba to improve religious freedom, but he said more needs to be done.  He said the world and Cuba need to change by choosing "the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity," and seeking truth.



Religion and politics

The U.S. State Department said it asked the pope to raise with Cuban officials the case of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba after being convicted of crimes against the communist state.

A department spokeswoman said the request was made to the Vatican and through its diplomatic mission in Washington before Benedict arrived in Cuba on Monday.

Earlier Wednesday, a Vatican spokesman said the pope made a "humanitarian request" of Cuban President Raul Castro, but did not say if specific cases of political prisoners were discussed.

The spokesman said Pope Benedict also asked Mr. Castro to officially designate Good Friday, the day Christians observe the death of Jesus, as a national holiday.  

On Tuesday, the pontiff briefly met with Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother and successor.  

Pope Benedict went to Cuba on a mission to boost the Church's influence and encourage Cubans to seek political change in order to build a "renewed and open society."

But Vice President Marino Murillo said Tuesday "there will not be political reform" in Cuba.

The pope's visit comes 14 years after his predecessor, John Paul, made the first papal visit to the communist-run island. The Roman Catholic Church has since grown to become the most influential institution next to the government.  Cuba was officially an atheist state from 1959 until a constitutional change in 1992 abolished atheism as the state creed and called for separation of church and state.  At that time, the Communist Party also lifted its ban on members with religious beliefs.

Cuba is the last stop on the pontiff's five-day Latin American trip that began last week in Mexico.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Edward J Baker
March 28, 2012 9:50 AM
Of course he's a man. He's also the vicar of Christ whose unique authority is guided by the Holy Spirit, as Sacred Scripture and the proper use of the authority to interpret Sacred Scripture by the Church founded by Christ make clear.

by: Okiepapist
March 28, 2012 6:58 AM
Gab,

I see you back that ad hominum attack up with much documentation. Oremus Pro Pontifice!

by: Frank
March 28, 2012 6:56 AM
Let us pray that this visit may do much good for the faithful and the others in this little country and even for poor old Fidel !

by: NVO
March 28, 2012 6:06 AM
Jesus does predict a vicar in the sense of a replacement for His physical presence here on earth. This Vicar of Christ is not a pope! The only biblical Vicar of Christ is the Holy Spirit. In claiming that the pope is the Vicar of Christ the RC Church rejects the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ’s priesthood and grants to the pope roles that Christ Himself declared would belong to the Holy Spirit. It is blasphemy to ascribe to the pope the title of Vicar of Christ! Ratzinger is a mere man!

by: Gab
March 28, 2012 4:40 AM
If Cuba can receive Ahmadinejad and Chavez, then why not one more hypocrite.
Comments page of 2
 Previous    

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs