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Cuban-Americans Angry at Pope Francis For His Role in U.S. Relations with Castro

( [email protected] ) Dec 23, 2014 06:44 PM EST
Many Roman Catholic Cubans who fled the country to escape the Castro brothers are now denouncing Pope Francis after his role in encouraging the talks that led to last week's trade embargo lift between the United States and Cuba.
Cuban Americans protest in Miami against Pope Francis' role in relations with Communist Cuban president Raul Castro. Photo: Alan Diaz/AP

Many Roman Catholic Cubans who fled the country to escape the Castro brothers are now denouncing Pope Francis after his role in encouraging the talks that led to last week's trade embargo lift between the United States and Cuba.

While many Catholics around the world are excited that Pope Francis played such an integral part in the peace talks between Cuba and the U.S., Cuban-Americans are going so far as to say that the new pope has betrayed them.

"I'm still Catholic till the day I die," said 53-year-old Efrain Rivas of Miami who was a political prisoner in Cuba for 16 years. "But I am a Catholic without a pope."

Many Cubans who fled the country since 1959 did so to escape Fidel Castro's heavy-handed regime and hoped that an end to the dictatorship would have happened when Castro died. "Next Year in Havana" is the traditional New Year's Eve toast that expresses a desire for Cubans to return to their home country when democracy returns to the small island. But last week's lift of the 55-year-old trade embargo didn't happen quite as many had hoped.

Rivas told the Associated Press that he cried when Obama announced the increased trade relations with Cuba, but became angry when he learned of Pope Francis' role while a Castro is still in power.

The Vatican has been working to increase Cuban relations since Pope John Paul II made his historic visit to the island in 1998. "May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba." Since then, Pope Benedict XVI had also continued discussions after a visit in 2012.

But, as Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said, many Catholics are suspicious of how this will all turn out. "The pain is real, but you can't build a future on top of resentments," he told the AP.

Miguel Saavedra, the 57-year-old leader of an anti-Castro group in Miami, is concerned that the church didn't take a harsher stance to change the officially athiest country. "The church is contaminated," he said.

After facing so much persecution in Cuba for practicing their faith, many Cuban-Americans don't understand how the pope could see past that. Many believe it's for headlines.

"He wants to be everywhere, he wants to be liked by everyone," Cuban-American retiree Jay Fernandez said. "That's his job to be a peace guy, but it doesn't accomplish a d*** thing, especially in Cuba."

"He's trying to get a legacy at any price," 50-year-old Arturo Suarez-Ramos said, referring to the pope's aim for more inclusion for homosexuals and divorcees in the Catholic church.

But some believe that this is just the first positive step, and the pope, along with other top diplomatic leaders, will work together to revitalize the country and bring Catholicism back to the forefront.

"It's not easy, but the faithful people in these kinds of situations know to trust in God," Miami's Rev. Juan Rumin Dominguez said. "We are a faithful people. We have confidence because God has his plan."