Pope Francis stressed that his Apostolic Visit to Cuba was pastoral and not political.
The Holy Father held a brief press conference with journalists aboard his flight to Washington’s Andrews Air Force Base yesterday.
Asked about why he did not meet with Cuban dissidents, the Pope said that he did not hold private meetings with anybody while he was there.
“It was clear that I would not have given any private audience, not only to dissidents, but everyone else, including some heads of State who asked for one,” he said.
However, the Pope did confirm that “the Nunciature made a telephone call to several dissidents to tell them that, upon arriving to the Cathedral in Havana, I would gladly greet them. I greeted everyone, but no one identified themselves as a dissident.”
The Pope also said that the Church in Cuba is doing everything possible to help them, including assisting in the release of over 3,500 prisoners. “The Church has worked and is working to request pardons, and they will continue to do so,” he said.
Regarding his private meeting with Fidel Castro, the Holy Father was asked if he repented for his treatment of the Church during his presidency.
“Repentance is something intimate, having to do with the conscience,” he said. The 78-year-old Pontiff said that the meeting with Fidel Castro was ‘informal’ and ‘spontaneous’.
“We spoke only on the Jesuit school and how hard they made [students] work’ Then we spoke a lot about the encyclical Laudato Si’. He is very interested in the theme of ecology and he is worried about the environment,” he said.
The Holy Father also discussed the tone of his visit to Cuba, saying that he did not enter into politics because “the trip was pastoral, my interventions were homilies. It was a very pastoral language.”
He also addressed rumors that he is harsher on capitalism than communism. “In my addresses in Cuba, I always alluded to the Social Doctrine of the Church. The things that need to be corrected I have said clearly, not in a ‘perfumed’ way,” he said.
“I follow the Church and in this, I do not think I am wrong,” he also said.
Regarding those who mischaracterize his tone as ‘leftist’, the Pope said: “Maybe I have given an impression of being a little bit to the left, but if they want me to recite the Creed, I can!”
Regarding his visit to the United States, the Pope confirmed that he will not speak on lifting the Cuban embargo during his address to Congress. However, “I will speak in general on agreements as a sign of progress in coexistence,” he said. (J.A.E.)