In Cuba, Pope delivers veiled critique
Pope Francis landed in Cuba on Saturday, quickly calling on the communist nation to "open itself to the world," while praising its recent restoration of diplomatic ties with the United States.
Francis was greeted by President Raul Castro at Jose Marti International airport in Havana, where the pontiff urged Cuba to grant its people the "freedom, the means and the space" to practice their religion, an implicit criticism of the sharp restrictions the country has placed on faith.
Before the communist revolution in 1959, the Catholic Church was an integral part of Cuban history, the Pope said, inspiring veterans of its war for independence and "sustaining the hope which preserves people's dignity in the most difficult situations."
In his short speech, Francis also invoked Jose Marti, a Cuban hero, to deliver a veiled critique of the Castros, said Andrew Chesnut, a professor of Latin American history at Virginia Commonwealth University. Marti, a George Washington-type figure, died in 1895 during the war for independence.
"He specifically referenced Marti as a fighter against 'dynasties,' a reference of course to the five decadelong Castro regime," Chesnut said.
But a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Pope was not necessarily referring to the Castros.
"I don't think that it was a citation chosen for a specific reference to today's situations," Lombardi said at a Saturday evening news conference.