Pope Francis: Mediator of the Americas
By Kiersten Meyers
As the United States prepares for the six-day Papal visit to New York, Washington, and Philadelphia, security for the Pope has become a rising priority. Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), told the Washington Post, “The Pope is a very passionate man,” adding that some of the Pope’s methods make him difficult to protect.
As McCaul puts it, “He likes to get out with the people.” This poses a major security problem as open areas makes him an easy target for threats. This includes not only the open-air arenas that he prefers to speak in, but also the open-roofed Papal vehicles that he uses as transportation, as opposed to the traditional bulletproof, enclosed vehicles that became popular after the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. McCaul has gone on record saying that one plot against the Pope has been “disrupted,” and that the Department of Homeland Security is on high alert for other threats.
As Pope Francis returns to the Americas, more than just his security is in question. The visit brings up the Vatican’s involvement in the resumption of U.S.-Cuba relations, and in Venezuela’s human rights violations.
NPR says the process in opening Cuba’s borders began when Pope John Paul II visited Cuba for the first time in history. At the start of his visit, he stood with Fidel Castro, saying, “May Cuba, with all its magnificent possibilities, open itself to the world, and may the world open itself to Cuba.”
Seventeen years have passed since that initial visit and little progress has been seen. However, with the help of Pope Francis as an intermediary for negotiations between the Obama administration and the Cuban government, the world saw the two countries pick up relations again. According to the New York Times, many Cubans believe that the ten-day visit split between Cuba and the U.S. will strengthen the new relations between both countries. Though Pope Francis may not express these feelings in public, many long-time observers of the Pope feel the same as the Cuban people.
On the other hand, the Pope’s silence on human rights violations in Venezuela has been the topic of much discussion. An article from the Economist criticizes the Vatican for its lack of action or response regarding the imprisonment of Leopoldo López, an opposition leader to the authoritarian government. Mr. Lopez is a Catholic, and Venezuela is a predominantly Catholic country.
The New York Times reports that the imprisonment of Mr. López is a show of desperation from the Venezuelan government. After repeated acts of human rights violations, President Nicolás Maduro called off a meeting with Pope Francis to avoid confrontation over the issue. With relations reopened between Cuba and the United States due in part to the Vatican’s involvement, many hope that any renunciation of the Venezuelan government’s actions will lead to an end to the human rights violations and Mr. López’s release.