Obama and Castro take next steps to normalize U.S.-Cuba ties

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April 13, 2015

Obama shakes hands with Castro as they hold bilateral meeting during Summit of the Americas in Panama City

Cuba’s President Raul Castro shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama as they hold a bilateral meeting during the seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama City April 11. Obama and Castro, who shook hands at the summit, seek to restore ties between the Cold War foes. CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

PANAMA CITY (CNS) — An hourlong meeting April 11 between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro marked the first such personal encounter between the leaders of the two neighboring countries since 1958.

The session held during the Summit on the Americas, in which Cuba participated for the first time, was the most visible step toward ending a half century of strained relations dating back to the Cuban revolution.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, extended Pope Francis’ greetings to the gathering. His presence at the summit served as a reminder of the pope’s hand in encouraging Obama and Castro to move toward restoring diplomatic relations and ending the decades-long U.S. embargo of the nation that sits 90 miles off the tip of Key West, Florida.

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