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The United States and Cuba could not have restored diplomatic ties without the Catholic Church. But the church could be the negotiations' biggest loser: many Catholics resent its intervention.
While in Turkey, the pope will publicly demonstrate his respect and affection for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I as part of an ongoing, 50-year dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. The pope also aims to boost the standing of the beleaguered patriarch in the face of a dismissive Turkish government and an often overbearing institutional daughter, the Russian Orthodox Church.
Cynics might regard Pope Francis’ prayer summit with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a glorified photo opportunity. And plenty of pictures will be taken. But for five reasons, the meeting could help resuscitate the Middle East peace process.
Gulen has tried to develop a genuinely modern school of Islam that reconciles the religion with liberal democracy, scientific rationalism, ecumenism, and free enterprise.
Pope Benedict XVI made reaching out to other faiths and promoting Christian unity hallmarks of his tenure. Pope Francis will continue this work, not only because he has a history of facilitating religious dialogue, but also because global Catholicism requires it.
In geographic and spiritual identity, Pope Francis is both an insider and an outsider. He is uncategorizable -- and that will allow him to bridge old divides and reenergize the church.
When Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba next month, he will reinforce a strategy that the Vatican has allowed the local Catholic Church there to pursue for more than three decades: avoid confronting the Castro regime, collaborate with Havana to combat the U.S.-led embargo, and support the Cuban government’s incremental economic reforms. In exchange, the Church gets the space to rebuild its presence for the possible post-Castro economic boom times to come.