Pope Francis Visits Cuba and the United States of America 9/22/2015
Fidel Castro, Cuba, and the United States of America 11/28/2016
Pope Francis Visits Cuba and The United States of America
From September 19th until September 27th, Pope Francis will be visiting Cuba and the United States of America. For many reasons, his visit to these two nations is historic.
Who is the Pope? The Pope is not just a person, but is called the Vicar of Christ for over 1.2 billion Catholics (that’s 1,200,000,000 people). The word “vicar” means earthly representative of God or Christ. Catholics believe that when Jesus Christ walked the earth, he chose a leader to guide Christians after he was to be crucified. Catholics refer to Bible passages to support this view, including Mathew 16:18. After Peter died, early Christians chose a new leader. Pope Francis is the 266th Pope in the history of the Church. When the Pope speaks, he speaks not only for himself, but for all Catholics of the world.
There are 801 million (that’s 801,000,000 people) Christians in the world today who do not believe the Pope is the leader of the Christian people. In 1053, within the Christian Church, there was a schism. A schism means a separation. The Christian Church divided in two, between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church did not accept the idea that the Pope was leader of the Christians on Earth. Then, in 1527, Martin Luther separated from the Roman Catholic Church, forming the Lutheran Church. After this separation was made, hundreds of other Christian religions separated from either the Lutheran Church or the Roman Catholic Church. Faiths that separated from the Catholic Church do not hold that the Pope is leader of the world’s Christians.
The Pope and Cuba Since 1959, people of religious faith have been persecuted on Cuba. Fidel Castro installed a Communist government in Cuba, and Communist countries outlaw religious belief. Christians have been oppressed, tortured and executed on Cuba since this time. However, in recent years, the Communist regime of Castro may be softening its stance towards religion. Pope Francis has worked to bring greater freedom to the religious people of Cuba. He brokered the deal between the United States of America and Cuba that improved diplomatic relations between the two countries. Raul Castro, the current Communist dictator of Cuba, will attend all three Masses the Pope will celebrate, and the dictator has said he may go back to the Church.
The Pope and the United States of America Pope Francis will be in the United States of America from September 22nd until September 27th. His visit marks a few “firsts.” For the first time in history a Pope will address all members of Congress. This will take place 10:00 a.m. EST. Pope Francis will also canonize the first Spanish-American saint of North America, proclaiming Father Junipero Serra a saint on September 23rd at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Both events are marked with great interest and some controversy.
The Pope and the U.S. Congress Many are waiting with keen interest to listen to what Pope Francis will say to the U.S. Congress. The Pope has made statements that seem very critical of free market principles, which is favored by the Republican Party. He also has written and spoken about global warming, which is a favored topic of Democrats. On the other hand, he has confirmed the Catholic Church’s stand against abortion, which is a procedure nearly all Democrats believe to be a right of women. And, he has spoken against euthanasia, which more Democrats support.
The Church and Father Junipero Serra The Catholic Church proclaims a person to have been a saint if he or she lived an exemplary life for Christ, and, if two miracles can be attributed to this person after he or she has died. For example, if a believer asks a person he believes to be in heaven to pray for him, and the believer is healed of an incurable disease, the Church believes this may be a miracle. During his visit to the U.S.A., Pope Francis will be proclaiming Father Junipero Serra a saint.
Father Junipero Serra is somewhat of a controversial figure. Father Serra was a Spanish Franciscan priest who founded nine of California’s 21 missions from 1769 to 1782. Because of Serra, thousands of native Americans learned about Christ, were baptized, and learned trades that would help them in the new economy the Spanish brought with them when Spain colonized California. Once baptized, the Indians were not allowed to leave the missions, and when they broke laws or Church rules, Indians were physically punished, as was the custom in medieval Europe. On one hand, Father Serra is revered as a Christian who gave up worldly comfort to teach about Christ in a new land, but on the other hand, some believe he mistreated the Indians and should not be exalted.
What is the Catholic view of who the Pope is?
What happened in the year 1053?
What happened in the year 1527?
Since 1959, who has been in control of Cuba and how does this group treat believers in God?
What are the two different views of Father Serra?
Fidel Castro, Cuba, and the United States of America
By John De Gree
On November 25th, 2016, one of the world’s brutal dictators, Fidel Castro, died. Fidel Castro led Cuba as its Communist dictator since 1959. During his 57-year rule, Castro was responsible for the murder, torture, and imprisonment of tens of thousands. Castro’s regime did not allow basic civil rights in Cuba such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. In addition, Castro did not allow Cubans to travel outside of the island and ordered his navy to kill those trying to leave by boat. Under Castro, the Cuban navy sank ships and used fire hoses to drown Cubans in the Pacific Ocean trying to escape island by boat. Cuba, 1492 – 1895 In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World for Spain, and Spain quickly colonized much of North and South America. For the next four hundred years, Spain ruled Cuba. As Spanish colonies in the New World revolted in the early 1800s and countries such as Mexico gained independence, Cuba remained loyal. In the mid to late 1800s, Cubans wanted independence from Spain and fought for many years. In the Ten Years’ War (1868-78) Cubans struggled to break away, but Spain kept control of the island.
The United States of America and Cuba, 1895-1959 During the Second War for Independence (1895-98) the United States entered the war on the side of the Cubans, fighting what Americans call the Spanish-American War. The United States defeated Spain, and at the Treaty of Paris it was decided that Spain would surrender Cuba, Puerto Rico, parts of the West Indies, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The Americans gave Cuba its independence in 1901, but the U.S. insisted on the right to have a permanent naval base on Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), and claimed the right to militarily intervene in Cuban affairs should there be unrest. Over the next 60 years, the U.S.A. militarily intervened in Cuba on numerous occasions.
Cubans suffered under military dictatorships, and at times, the United States supported Cuban leaders who were undemocratic. Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) seized power militarily in 1933, was elected Cuban President in 1940, and he made himself rich through his connections as the Cuban President. In 1944, he left office and lived in Florida. While Batista was in Florida, Cuba became unstable and corruption was rampant. The American government supported Batista’s return to power in 1952, and for the next seven years he led Cuba as dictator. Batista did not tolerate anyone going against him, controlled the media, and arrested, tortured and executed those who he believed were Communists. It is not known how many he killed, and the number historians give ranges from 1,000 to 20,000 Cubans. Cuba, 1959 – Present Day In 1959, Communist Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro overthrew Batista. The Castro government nationalized (took over) all foreign owned businesses, and eventually took over all businesses owned by Cubans, as well. Communists believe that only the government should own property, and they do not trust businesspeople. Communists are also against religion, and anyone wanting to pray to God in Cuba is punished. In the first few years of the Castro regime, the Cuban government terrorized those who did not obey. Tens of thousands of Cubans were tortured and executed because they did not want to follow the Castro regime. Che Guevara, Castro’s chief enforcer, in response to questions about Castro's firing squads, said, "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution. And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."
For the next few years, the U.S.A. tried to get Cuba back into its sphere of influence, but failed. In 1961, President Kennedy approved of a plan to support a group of Cubans to invade Cuba and conquer Castro. Called “The Bay of Pigs Invasion”, it failed miserably. In 1962, America realized that the Soviet Union was building a network of nuclear missile launch sites on Cuba. After a U.S. naval blockade, the Soviet weapons were withdrawn, and the U.S. promised to never invade Cuba, again. From 1962 on, Cuba was allied with the Soviet Union, America’s enemy throughout most of the second half of the 1900s. The Soviet Union gave Cuba money, food, and a great amount of support. Cuba after the Fall of the Soviet Union In 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart and could no longer give Cuba subsidies. As a result, Cubans suffer greatly from a lack of food and basic necessities. After 50 years of Communist rule, Cuba has become a poor country run by a government that only cares about itself. The Castro brothers are much older now, but they remain rich, as the average Cuban suffer. Thousands of Cubans are jailed because they oppose the Castros and the Communists, and many are executed for their beliefs. Whoever tries to escape Cuba and is caught is killed by the police or government.
President Obama has changed the United States policy towards Cuba from starving the Castro government to recognizing it as legitimate. President Obama thinks that increased American tourism and business will open up Cuba. Other Americans, like Senator Marco Rubio, argue that doing business with Cuba means helping the Castros stay in power. All foreign money spent in Cuba goes straight to the Communist leaders, so more American business means a richer Communist regime. The death of Fidel Castro has been met with diverse reactions from leaders in North America. President Obama wrote, "Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him," in a White House statement. President-Elect Donald Trump wrote, "The world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights." Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation."
It is unclear if the death of Fidel Castro will have a great impact on the lives of Cubans. His brother, 85 year old Raul Castro, is currently the Communist leader of Cuba, and he has so far followed his brother Fidel’s model of repressive leadership. Interesting Questions You Can Discuss With Your Students and Kids:
Who controlled Cuba, from 1492 to 1898?
Who fought over Cuba from 1895-1898?
Who was Batista?
What did Fidel Castro do?
What do you think of the words of Obama, Trump, and Trudeau regarding Fidel Castro?