Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Great moments in diplomacy

The priest generally described as the number two man in the Vatican, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has just become the first foreign dignitary to meet the newly-enthroned Raul Castro.

And a jolly meeting they had, too, as you can see from the photograph above.

Cardinal Bertone, who is the Vatican’s secretary of State – or foreign minister – has been in Cuba for several days, marking the 10th anniversary of the historic visit to the island by the late Pope John Paul II.

Although he has visited Havana, Guantanamo, Santa Clara and Baracoa, the cardinal has managed so far to avoid making any direct mention of such potentially thorny issues as human rights, the harassment of Catholic dissidents or the jailing of political prisoners.

But you will be pleased to hear that he did find time to criticise the US trade embargo as “unethical”.

In return, it seems, the Castro regime has made some vague promises to the Vatican to allow Church authorities in Cuba greater (but still limited) access to the official media.

According to this Reuters report, Cuban authorities have promised the good cardinal that in future, there may just be "more openings" for the local Catholic hierarchy in print outlets, radio "and in certain exceptional cases, even television”.
Photograph: AP


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