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January, 1998

Following an invitation extended by Fidel Castro during a trip to the Vatican, Pope John Paul II visited Cuba.

While there, the Pope spoke in the Plaza of the Revolution to a great crowd of intently listening Cubans.  He criticized Fidel Castro's government, calling for more 'human rights' to be given to the people, but he also spoke out against the US blockade of Cuba.  He called America's law "unjust and ethically unacceptable."

Fidel Castro spoke before the pope and after the pope's speech, said, "For all your words, even those with which there may be some disagreement, I offer my thanks."

The Pope's visit was not merely a public-relations coup; by pressuring both the governments of both U.S. and Cuba on a variety of issues, the trip brought about real change.   Briefly before the Pope arrived, Castro released 200 prisoners classified by the Vatican as political prisioners.  President Clinton also made a gesture of reconcilation by easing certain economic restrictions on Cuba.

The Pope gave a mass which was broadcast live on Cuban television, and many people crammed into the Plaza of the Revolution to see him in person.

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