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Another side of Francis: US-Cuba role shows Pope's diplomatic muscle

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 18, 2014

Nobody saw it coming. All sorts of things, good and bad, have been written about Pope Francis. But nobody predicted that he would break a 50-year stalemate in relations between the US and Cuba.

Cuba was obviously on the Vatican’s diplomatic agenda during the previous two pontificates. Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI visited the island nation, pressed for religious freedom, and worked for the release of political prisoners. But since the election of Pope Francis, things have been quiet.

Maybe then we should take a new perspective on some other questions of Vatican diplomacy. This Pope has been criticized for his public silence on the case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on a trumped-up blasphemy charge. Is he trying to orchestrate something else quietly? We don’t know. But as this week’s stunning announcement reminds us, sometimes in the world of diplomacy, when the key players go silent, it’s because they’re making serious progress. Let’s hope that’s the case with Asia Bibi.

The broader point here is that we’ve suddenly learned that Pope Francis—or to be more accurate, the Vatican under Pope Francis—remains a key player in the field of international diplomacy. Francis Rooney, a former US ambassador to the Holy See, told the Washington Post that he now expects to “see the Holy See be more out front, whether for good or bad.” He explained: “This Pope is willing to lean further forward than anyone else has.”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: shrink - Dec. 19, 2014 12:47 PM ET USA

    Wouldn't it be great if Francis could use his influence with Obama to withdraw his attacks on the Catholic Church here in the US.