Cuba literally rolled out the red carpet for Pope Francis as he landed there this afternoon to be greeted by Raul Castro and deliver a brief speech to an adoring crowd.
The normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba is just getting underway, with the American flag being raised over the newly reopened embassy in Cuba during a ceremony in mid-August. “We are gathered here because our leaders made a courageous decision to stop being prisoners of history,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. Pope Francis seems to agree, and said today that the example set by the United States and Cuba should be an example for the world.
Another example set for the world today: the absence of Cuban dissidents from the Pope’s visit. Castro cleansed the official American flag raising ceremony of dissidents by arresting nearly 100 the Sunday before Kerry’s arrival, along with 50 “Ladies in White,” a group made up of wives of jailed dissidents.
Last year, Cuba gave permission for the construction of the country’s first new Catholic church in 55 years — a sign of improving relations between the Vatican and Cuba’s communist government.