U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Monday he hopes that his visit to Cuba serves to build bridges between the peoples of the two countries amid tensions between their governments.
Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, was invited to the island by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel. After visiting Cuba’s central and eastern provinces over the weekend, he celebrated Mass in Havana’s Cathedral on Monday.
“I hope (my visit) emphasizes that we’re neighbors and maybe governments have tensions but people love one another,” he told The Associated Press. “I see the Cuban people love the American people and I know the American people consider the Cuban people to be neighbors. And they hope for bridges instead of walls. And they hope for reconciliation.”
Dolan was accompanied by Juan García, who was made a cardinal at the end of last year following the death of Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who was a key figure in the reestablishment of relations between the United States and Havana.
The United States has enforced a trade embargo against Cuba since the early 1960s. However, U.S. President Barack Obama started a more open relationship with the island in 2014, culminating with his historic visit in 2016.
The Trump administration has reversed this course. Washington announced a new cap on the amount of money that families in the U.S. can send relatives in Cuba, limited travel to the island by U.S. citizens, prohibited the arrival of cruise ships and restricted commercial flights to the island. It has opened the way for lawsuits against foreign firms operating on properties that Cuba seized from Americans after the 1959 revolution.
Dolan’s five-day visit to Cuba ends on Feb. 12. During Monday’s Mass, he spoke in Spanish and sometimes with a translator, sang and took pictures with the Cuban faithful.
“I bring the love and respect of the people of the United States for the Cuban people,” he said.