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Vatican Mediation in US-Cuba Relations Applauded

Pope Francis waves to the crowd during his general audience at St Peter's square at the Vatican on Dec. 10, 2014.

Pope Francis' involvement in helping Cuba and the United States improve diplomatic relations was seen as a positive step forward at the Vatican on Thursday.

The pontiff congratulated the U.S. and Cuba on their decision to establish diplomatic relations Wednesday, and the Vatican said it was ready to support the strengthening of bilateral relations.

The Vatican also confirmed in a statement that its diplomats facilitated
talks between the two countries, "resulting in solutions acceptable to both parties.''

"First of all the pope sent personal letters to both [President Barack] Obama and President Castro of Cuba urging them to put their differences behind them and end this kind of anomaly that has been going on for more than half a century,'' explained Reuters Vatican correspondent Philip Pullella.

"The Vatican used its position, having very good relations with
both countries as a kind of neutral broker. On the one side the Cubans trusted the Vatican because the Vatican had always opposed the U.S. embargo against Cuba, on the other side the Vatican has very good relations with the United States. It has been involved in other similar mediations at a much lower level. So it was a trusted party and that is why things were able to move ahead,'' he said.

Pullella said the Vatican had worked closely with Canada in helping
unblock U.S.-Cuban relations.

"Over the course of the last fifteen years the Vatican has increased
its credibility with the Cuban government as a diplomatic power broker and working together with Canada, which was the real mediator, these two countries put together on neutral ground, so to speak, led to the announcment that President Obama made,'' Pullella said.

The Vatican has said it will continue to support initiatives made
by the U.S. and Cuba to strengthen relations between the countries.

"This was something horrible that they [Cuba and U.S.] were enemies
for so many years and so many people suffered," Argentinian tourist Anna Innes told Reuters while walking in St. Peter's square. "I really support this and this is why we have the church to unite people, to give love, for fraternity. I am happy."

"The Vatican at this time represents almost a trade union figure
amongst nations. We really need this kind of figure in this particular historic moment,'' said Italian Corrado Santoro.

For many Cubans the easing of relations between the two countries
was seen as something almost impossible to achieve. But now a new phase of hope has taken over.

"Thanks to the Vatican and the Catholic church we can breathe an air of hope once more,'' said Cuban migrant Armando Begherie who lives in Italy.

"We don't know where this hope will take us but we really hope for the best,'' he said.

The Vatican's work behind-the-scenes also gave hope for peace
in other troubled areas of the globe.

"It is very good. Very good that the Vatican does good peace all over the world,'' said Israeli tourist Josef Amir.

"He [the pope] needs to do peace not only in Cuba and the United States but in the Middle East as well to give the people the hope that everyone is equal all over the world. Never mind if it is in the west, in the east, we are human beings all over the world,'' Amir said.