Pope Calls On US to End Cuban Economic Embargo

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Pope John Paul II denounced the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba during a speech to Cuban bishops Saturday in Vatican City.

"Restrictive economic measures imposed from outside are unjust and ethically unacceptable," said the pontiff, who has previously called for the U.S. to end its economic embargo against the communist nation.

The pope also praised Cuban bishops for trying to revive the Roman Catholic faith in their communist nation. He said the Cuban people have a spiritual thirst unsatisfied by the secular world's "old ideologies."

The pontiff also recalled his highly successful visit to Cuba in 1998 in which he called for the world to reach out to Cuba and for Cuba to reach out to the world. Many things have been accomplished since that visit, said the Pope, and much more needs to be done. He expressed concern for the fact that, in his opinion, there aren't enough Catholic priests and nuns in Cuba.

The Castro government issued no official reaction.

Cuban Leader Fidel Castro made a public appearance in Havana on Saturday for the first time since he collapsed from heat exhaustion while giving a speech two weeks ago.

He once again appeared under a blazing sun and he was wearing his customary military uniform and no hat.

Castro spoke to an estimated 20,000 Cuban in Bejucal, near Havana, for less than 10 minutes, a very short length of time, given Castro's customary long-windedness. His speeches usually last about seven or eight hours.

Castro said the Cuban revolution was not built by one man, but by millions of Cubans who would defend it until the last drop of blood.

Many analysts believe Castro's statement indicates that for the first time, Cuban government officials and many Cuban people are realizing he will not be the "maximum leader" forever. Castro is 74 years old.