A personal appeal by Pope Francis played a key role in finalising a deal to open relations between the United States and Cuba for the first time in 53 years, USA Today reports.
The Pope wrote a personal letter to President Obama in the nothern autumn — something he'd never done before — and a separate letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro.
The letter invited the leaders to "resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners," according to a Vatican statement congratulating the two countries Wednesday. The Vatican said it received delegations from both countries in October and helped facilitate a dialogue.
That resulted in a major U.S. policy shift toward Cuba, including a prisoner swap between the two countries that freed American Alan Gross on Wednesday.
"The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the well-being of their respective citizens," the statement said.
FULL STORY: Pope Francis played key role in U.S.-Cuba deal (USA Today)
The Vatican Reveals Pope's and Holy See's Role in U.S.-Cuba Breakthrough (America magazine)
Image from CNS.