Representative Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25) sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI ahead of his visit to Cuba next week. Congresswoman Buerkle, along with other House colleagues, respectfully requested that Pope Benedict XVI consider meeting with Cuban dissidents.
"In the past," Buerkle noted, "the Cuban government has exploited papal visits to create positive propaganda for the oppressive Cuban regime. My House colleagues and I want to encourage Pope Benedict XVI to prevent this from happening by agreeing to meet with those who have suffered under Cuba's dictatorship."
"Brave individuals and their families are persecuted on a daily basis for daring to speak out against injustice as they seek the most basic freedoms that we cherish. The people of Cuba long for freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and other internationally-recognized human rights. Pope Benedict XVI's visit with these human rights activists would send a powerful message to the Cuban people and international community."
Congresswoman Buerkle added, "The Catholic Church has always played an important role in raising awareness on humanitarian issues around the globe. It is important that we not let the Castro regime dictate the terms of this papal visit in order to shroud the realities of Cuba's oppressive government."
Leading up to the papal visit there have been reports that Cuban Catholics calling for an audience with the Pope have been repressed by the Cuban government. Bowing to the pressure of the Castro regime, the Catholic Church's hierarchy in Cuba has stated that Pope Benedict XVI will not be available to meet with Cuban dissidents.