Cuban President Raul Castro Meets With Pope Francis In Rare Sunday Meeting

Posted: May 10 2015, 12:56pm CDT | by , Updated: May 10 2015, 1:07pm CDT, in Latest Political News


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Cuban President Raul Castro meets with Pope Francis in rare Sunday meeting
Credit: Getty Images
  • Castro thanks Pope Francis.
  • U.S. and Cuba market support.
  • Possible return to Catholicism.

Raul Castro and Pope Francis met on Sunday, May 10, in a rare private conference without discussing state matters. Afterwards, the Cuban president praised the pontiff's "wisdom."

On May 10, 2015, Cuban President Raul Castro visited Pope Francis at the Vatican. According to the BBC, the stop was part of a return trip to Cuba from Moscow, Russia, where the nation celebrated World War II Victory Day.

Castro publically and privately thanked the Argentinian for helping to broker the deal that will benefit everyone involved. The words hint at a growing relationship between the two leaders.

In September, the Pope will visit Cuba before continuing on to the United States. What do the two leaders have in common, though?

Castro told the press, “The pontiff is a Jesuit, and I, in some way, am too. I studied at Jesuit schools."

When questioned on if he would turn to the Catholic Church, he simply replied “I mean what I say.” Both he and his brother, former leader Fidel, were baptized as Roman Catholics, but after the revolution, church activities were eliminated.

He also admitted, "I will resume praying and turn to the Church again if the Pope continues in this vein."

The fact the Pope made time for the Cuban leader on a Sunday speaks to a solid relationship. Meetings on Sundays are extremely rare, reports Washington Post TV. Speaking for nearly 50 minutes, the two spoke privately instead of state, another rarity.

BBC's David Willey believes the ended embargo is a major diplomatic moment for the Pope. While the embargo is ending in pieces, many Cubans and Cuban-Americans are enjoying the chance to communicate with loved ones while possibly growing in a new, legalized marketplace.

A Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania study illustrated that Cuban-Americans support of lifting the embargo is increasing. CNBC broadcasted the Cuba Opportunity Summit in April and noted that one of the largest areas of access involved trade.

With companies like Coca-Cola, Nike, and Apple selling to communist countries such as China and Vietnam, over 60 percent of the respondents of the study believed people should be able to sell products between the US and Cuba. Added to that, Cuba-Americans make up 2 million of the national population, so the markets are ripe for trade.

While the U.S. and Cuba remained adversaries even after the Cold War ended, Cuba and the Catholic Church remained tied. In fact, it was the pontiff that inspired the truce between the nations by writing to both President Barack Obama and President Castro, says Washington Post TV.

With that in mind, the Pope's secret meetings to find a middle ground and end the tensions means that more people are able to access different markets, especially businesses looking to broaden a base.

Growing both GDPs will benefit citizens on a local level as well.

The Wall Street Journal posted in December 2014 that the Cuban economy needed the help as Russia and Venezuela, their two main benefactors, have run into national financial crises. And the average Cuban’s annual income is only $5,890.

An increase of markets and business outside of state-run institutions would allow a quick growth rate and a new trading partner for the U.S.

The Associated Press notes that while at the Italian premier’s office, Castro thanked the Latin American for “wisdom, modesty and all his other qualities.” He admitted to reading the Pope’s speeches. Largely progressive for the position, the Pope offers a sense of unity among Catholics and non-Catholics, something the Cuban may find appealing as a person and leader during changing times.

As Cuba and the U.S. rebuild a relationship, the Vatican hopes long-term diplomacy and peace will continue and help the world through smart, decisive action.

Source: AP, BBC, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

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