Pope Francis has warmly welcomed the news announced today that the United States and Cuba are to re-establish diplomatic relations.

In a statement issued this evening by the Secretariat of State, the Vatican said "the Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision", adding that the Pope took a leading role in achieving the breakthrough by writing to the Presidents of both countries and making humanitarian appeals. 

The Holy See also "provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue" between the two nations, the communique added. 

The full text of the statement can be read below.

The Holy See mediates in international disputes more often than is commonly known, but mostly its efforts take place behind the scenes and are of general assistance. One of the most prominent Vatican-brokered diplomatic breakthroughs took place in the early 1980s when Pope John Paul II and Holy See officials took a leading role in preventing Argentina and Chile from going to war over the Beagle Islands.  

But it is rare for the Holy See to take such a prominent and effective role in re-establishing diplomatic ties between two states. In addition to Pope Francis' obvious contribution, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has developed a good track record in mediation during the course of his diplomatic career. It would therefore not be surprising if he played a major role in helping to bring about the release of American prisoner Alan Gross and the diplomatic breakthrough that followed.   

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Communiqué of the Secretariat of State

       The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history.

       In recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Excellency Mr Raúl Castro, and the President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama, and invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two Parties.

       The Holy See received Delegations of the two countries in the Vatican last October and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both Parties.

       The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens.       

From the Vatican, 17th December 2014

[Original text: Italian]