In a thinly veiled reproach to Cuban authorities, Pope Francis told a young Cuban student on Thursday that a political leader who stays in power at all costs is a “tyrant,” and that those who do not invest in future leaders are worthless “dictators.”
In a sort of “virtual town hall” organized by CNN’s Spanish-language channel between the Pope in the Vatican, young people in Havana, and Hispanic youth in New York, Francis engaged in an unscripted back-and-forth exchange with the students in preparation for his upcoming trip to Cuba.
When a Cuban student asked him for an example of leadership, the Pope responded that “a good leader is the one who is able to generate other leaders. If a leader wants to stay in power, he is a tyrant. True leadership is fruitful.”
In pointed political language, the Pope told the youth that “today’s leaders won’t be there tomorrow. If they don’t sow the seed of leadership in others, they are worthless. They are dictators.”
As yet, there has been no reaction to Francis’ words from Cuba’s Castro regime, though the import of the Pope’s expressions could not have been lost on them and will surely add tension to Francis’ visit to the island on Saturday.
After meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican earlier this year, President Raúl Castro said that he was very impressed with the Pope.
“If the Pope keeps going the way he’s going, I’ll go back to praying and go back to the Church, and I’m not joking,” President Castro said after their talks.
He added, “When the Pope goes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his masses and with satisfaction.” He may be rethinking this now.
This is the second time this month that Pope Francis has stunned the world with politically incorrect remarks to young people.
In Pope Francis’ historic teleconference with groups of Americans in three cities earlier this month, he used such blunt language to describe abortion as murder that Time magazine felt obliged to tone it down by censoring out the offensive expressions.
Though the topic of abortion was not part of the original talking points for the meeting, the Pope inserted himself when speaking with a young single mother of two, Rosemary Farfan.
After listening to her testimony, the Pope congratulated the woman for her courage in bringing her two daughters into the world. “You could have killed them inside your womb and you respected life,” Francis said, and then reminded her that she will always be able to say, “I didn’t kill my daughters. I brought them into the world.”
The Pope’s references to “killing” seem to have been too much for Time, which published an article purporting to carry a transcription of the Pope’s words, while omitting some of the Pope’s most significant statements. After Breitbart called them out, Time issued an apology for the misquotation.
Pope watchers in Rome have already begun commenting on the significance of the Pope’s two virtual town hall meetings and the messages he had chosen to highlight. “Interesting that he should have brought up abortion with the Americans and tyranny with the Cubans,” one Vatican expert told Breitbart.
It is typical of this Pope to get some of his more controversial messages across in unconventional ways, while keeping up an air of diplomatic courtesy in his formal dealings with state leaders.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.