Pope Francis exhorted Cuba and the United States on Saturday to set an example for the world by deepening the recent rapprochement that he helped secretly broker between the former Cold War foes.
His zucchetto skullcap flying off in the Caribbean breeze at the start of a nine-day tour of Cubaand the United States, the Argentine pope used his arrival speech at Havana airport to praise this year’s normalization of diplomatic relations.
“I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities … as an example of reconciliation for the entire world,” he said before riding his open-sided popemobile through roads thronged with well-wishers.
Better sensitized to the issue than predecessors because of his Latin American roots, the 78-year-old pontiff facilitated a back channel for secret talks and sent missives to Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama at a delicate stage in 2014.
That bore fruit with a prisoner swap, the opening of embassies, and an easing of some travel and trade restrictions, although a half-century-old economic embargo is still in place, only removable by the U.S. Congress.