It’s a big day on the Catholic news front as His Holiness Pope Francis has boarded Vatican One (or whatever they call his plane) and is touching down in Cuba for a very rare visit. He will be holding mass at the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana tomorrow morning with an audience expected to be in the range of three quarters of million souls. While he’s in town the Pope will meet with Raul Castro and possibly his brother Fidel. It’s the first leg of a trip which seems destined to be rife with controversy. (Time)
Now on Saturday, the Pope is headed to Havana to begin the tenth and longest trip of his papacy—to Cuba, the United States and the United Nations.
For Francis, Cuba is not just a stopover visit en route to Washington. If anything it is even more significant because he decided to add it to his United States itinerary just several months ago. He will become only the third pontiff to visit the island nation, all in recent times; John Paul II visited 1998 and Benedict XVI visited in 2012. Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino of Havana—one of Francis’ close advisors and his personal emissary who secretly helped to broker the reconciliation between Cuba and the United States in 2014—will become the only Cardinal to receive three different Popes.
Things really have changed when it comes to Papal politics as compared to my younger years. There was always some controversy whenever the Vatican spoke up on matters beyond the strict maintenance of the souls of the flock, but for the most part world leaders tended to make at least some effort to keep things separated and accord the respect due the Pontiff. But this Cuba trip is already triggering complaints about not only his willingness to meet with the Castros, but his failure to meet with the opposition. Given his track record, I somehow doubt that His Holiness will let that stop him from meeting the needs of the hundreds of thousands coming to hear and see him in what may be a once in a lifetime opportunity for many.
After this visit is concluded, the Pope heads to Washington for an address to Congress. If the Cuba trip looked politically complicated, this next appearance has the potential to be a complete mess. It’s an arrangement on the part of the White House which Ed referred to as “complete crap.” (Which I believe translates from Minnesota Nice as “somewhat controversial.”) If you happened to miss Ed’s coverage, just click through the link and I won’t bother covering that real estate again here.
The final stop will be at the United Nations. If nothing else we should be able to rest assured that they will treat him in an apolitical, dignified fashion. (/sarc)
Make your predictions or bring up whatever else floats your boat on a Saturday afternoon.