Vatican Round-up

Pope to visit Cuba enroute to the USA in September

Pope Francis will visit Cuba on his way to the United States this September, according to Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, who said the Holy Father has “received and accepted the invitation from the civil authorities and bishops of Cuba”.

Visiting both countries on the same trip sends a powerful signal of the Pontiff’s determination to encourage the normalisation of relations between the long estranged neighbours.

In December, US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro credited Pope Francis with having helped them work toward re-establishing official diplomatic relations. Rome had hosted a secret meeting between representatives of the two countries, and had written letters to both leaders, building on years of work by the Holy See’s Secretariate of State.

In his annual address to diplomats assigned to the Holy See, the Pope hailed the two countries’ rapprochement as “one example close to my heart of how dialogue can build bridges”, expressing his hope that the embargo would be lifted and other rifts be healed.

The schedule of the Pontiff’s trip has not been finalised, but he is expected to arrive in Washington, DC, late on September 22, before becoming the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, and participating in the World Meeting of Families.

Buddhists and Christians must fight slavery together

Buddhists and Christians must “cooperate together to end the social plague” of modern slavery, according to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

In a message from Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and council secretary Fr Miguel Ayuso Guixot on the Buddhist feast of Vesakh, the council addressed Buddhists around the world, describing modern slavery and human trafficking as “grave crimes, open wounds on the body of contemporary society”.

Referring to the “Eightfold Path”, one of the foundations of Buddhism, the council cited the Buddhist principle of “Right Livelihood” and said, “the Buddha declares that trading live beings, including slaves and prostitutes, is one of five occupations that are no longer to be engaged in”.

Citing Pope Francis’ 2015 World Day of Peace message, they recalled his invitation “to overcome indifference and ignorance by offering assistance to victims, in working for their psychological and educational rehabilitation, and in efforts to reintegrate them into society where they live or from which they come”.

Terror suspects may have planned Vatican attack

Italian police have arrested at least nine people from what officials described as a terrorist cell that may have planned a suicide attack on the Vatican in 2010.

Speaking after the arrests in Cagliari, Fr Federico Lombardi said the planned Vatican operation never took place, and as the threat did not appear to be ongoing, he said, it was not “a reason for particular concern”.

DIGOS, the Italian police division that investigates terrorism and organised crime, arrested eight Pakistanis and an Afghani in seven Italian provinces. Some of the suspects are believed to have organised the 2009 market bombing in Peshawar in Pakistan, which killed more than 100 people. Three more suspects are still being sought.

Mauro Mura, chief prosecutor in Cagliari, told reporters that the investigation dates back to 2005, and involved wiretaps which strongly indicated that the suspected terrorists had been planning a bomb attack at the Vatican in March 2010.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano praised the operation, saying that as well as detaining several people accused of involvement in terrorism it had dismantled a “network of people traffickers”.