Jews ask pope to push for aid worker’s release in Cuba

WASHINGTON — Pope Benedict XVI will use his upcoming trip to Cuba to press for the release of Alan Gross, … Continued

WASHINGTON — Pope Benedict XVI will use his upcoming trip to Cuba to press for the release of Alan Gross, a Jewish man who has languished in a Cuban jail for more than two years, according to Gross’ supporters.

That’s the latest Ronald Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said he has heard through Vatican back channels.

In recent weeks, the council has circulated a petition asking the pope to intercede on Gross’ behalf when he visits the island on March 26-28.

“He represents humanitarianism and cherished values, and hopefully his presence could help lead to Alan Gross’ release,” Halber said.

Gross, 62, an international development worker from suburban Washington, was arrested in Havana in December 2009. He was on a mission, through a federal government contractor, to increase Internet access for Cuba’s small Jewish community.

A year ago, a Cuban court sentenced him to 15 years in prison for “acts against the independence of the territorial integrity of the State.”

Benedict’s visit will be the first papal trip to Cuba since Pope John Paul II visited in 1998.

Several thousand people have signed the petition so far, said Halber, who expects the numbers to increase as the pope’s visit draws closer.

The petition, which is addressed to the Vatican’s ambassador in Washington, asks the pope to press for Gross’ release on humanitarian grounds, and notes that the formerly 250-pound aid worker has lost more than 100 pounds while in jail, and that both his physical and emotional health are failing.

“Alan’s life was dedicated to improving the lives of others, particularly those less fortunate,” the petition reads.

“He worked in more than 50 countries — including Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, and several African nations — and never had any legal trouble in any of the countries he worked in or visited, until now.”

Since his arrest, the State Department has been working toward Gross’ release, and his supporters have held weekly vigils outside the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, the closest thing to a Cuban embassy in Washington.

The United States does not have official diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Caribbean nation, officially an atheist country until the early 1990s, counts about 10 percent of the population as Catholic.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Universal Uclick.


    Good luck with THAT. Remember, the Roman Catholic church traditioanlly hates Jews. And this Pope was a NAZI.

Read More Articles

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.