December 29, 2014

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis expressed his joy over the historic turning point in U.S.-Cuba relations as the two countries agreed to restore diplomatic ties after half a century.

"Today we are happy because we have seen how two peoples who were distanced for so many years took a step toward each other yesterday," he told a group of new ambassadors.

The pope credited the breakthrough to the consistent, constant efforts of the nations' ambassadors and the "noble" task of diplomacy.

The pope's comments came Dec. 18 in a speech to 13 new ambassadors to the Vatican who were presenting their letters of credential to the pope.

The pope told them the work of an ambassador is carried out with "tiny steps, tiny things" even "really tiny" efforts.

But all of those efforts "always end in creating peace, bringing people's hearts closer together, sowing fraternity among peoples," he said.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope's "culture of encounter" was a decisive tipping point for restored relations.

The pope's call for "encounter" means that "when there are problems, then one must apply the method of dialogue, and the more problems there are, the more difficulties there are, the more there must be dialogue," he said in an interview with Vatican Radio Dec. 18.


The cardinal said this landmark move has come after many years of the hard work, patience and "small steps" of many people, including the popes, starting with St. John XXIII.

However, he said, Pope Francis, as the first pope from Latin America, "was decisive because he was the one who took the initiative to write to the two presidents to invite them to overcome the difficulties existing between the two countries and to find a point of agreement, a point of encounter."

Parolin said he believed the breakthrough between the U.S. and Cuba will serve as an inspiration and model for the rest of Latin America and the world when it comes to solving its problems.

"It's a kind of model," he said, showing how "two nations that had many problems, many difficulties in their relations were able to, thanks to the good will and courage on behalf of their leaders, too," find a positive resolution.

"Perhaps it will inspire other leaders to also have the courage to look for the path of dialogue and encounter," he said.

Meanwhile, the Cuban bishops' conference expressed "special gratitude" to the pope for his role as a "major player in a desire that has now become reality" and to God for the "new horizons of hope" shining before the Cuban people.