01.08.15

Leahy Joins In Offering Bipart. Senate Res. Thanking Pope Francis For Role In Rls. Of Alan Gross, Impr. Relations With Cuba --

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Susan Collins (R-ME)  today introduced a resolution commending Pope Francis for his leadership in helping to secure the release of Alan Gross, and for working with the governments of the United States and Cuba to achieve a more positive relationship.

“Pope Francis seems to find new ways every day to make the world a little better,” said Durbin. “Over the past 18 months, that included sensitive negotiations for the release of an American aid worker and helping to mend the relationship between the United States and Cuba. Because of his work my friend Alan Gross is home again with his family.”

“The release of Alan Gross opened the way for President Obama to finally chart a new course for our policy on Cuba,” said Leahy. “We all have Pope Francis to thank for his invaluable role in helping both governments begin the process of normalizing relations.”

“Thanks to the key role Pope Francis played in negotiating the release of a jailed American, Alan Gross is now with his family instead of in a Cuban prison,” Flake said. “We are grateful for his intervention, and for his compassion.”

“After more than five years of imprisonment in Cuba, I was so pleased to welcome Alan Gross home to Maryland and the United States of America as he got off the plane and once against set foot on American soil,” Mikulski said.  “During his long imprisonment, Alan suffered tremendously. I’m so thankful for the steadfast commitment of Pope Francis, along with his predecessor Pope Benedict, in working to secure the release of Mr. Gross. Pope Francis has a unique position to speak out for human rights and appeal for compassion in the face of adversity. The collaborative effort to bring Alan home is a testament to his work helping and empowering others that he has dedicated so much of his life to."

“I’m thankful Pope Francis helped us free one of our citizens held in Cuba. I am pleased Alan Gross is back and I pray for his recovery,” said Enzi. “I also look forward to trying something new in our approach to Cuba in the hopes that we can facilitate positive change and freedom.”

"I join with people of all faiths in praising Pope Francis for his critical role in gaining the freedom of Alan Gross, an American who was imprisoned for helping the Cuban Jewish community gain greater freedoms and access to the outside world. We all share in the universal responsibility to protect the rights of all global citizens,” said Cardin. "It was a blessing to welcome Alan home to Maryland for a long-sought reunion with his family. Now that he is free, we can begin to write a new chapter in US-Cuban relations and openly promote a society that respects human rights and individual freedoms.”

Full text of the resolution:

Title: A resolution commending Pope Francis for his leadership in helping to secure the release of Alan Gross and for working with the Governments of the United States and Cuba to achieve a more positive relationship.

Whereas Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church on March 13, 2013;

Whereas his election marked the first time a Pope from the Americas and a Jesuit has been selected, as well as the first time a pope took the papal name of Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi;

Whereas Pope Francis has been recognized for his humility, dedication to the poor, and commitment to dialogue and reconciliation;

Whereas United States citizen and former United States Agency for International Development subcontractor Alan Phillip Gross traveled to Cuba five times in 2009, working to establish wireless networks and improve Internet and Intranet access and connectivity for the Cuban people;

Whereas Mr. Gross was arrested in Havana, Cuba, on December 3, 2009, charged with “actions against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state” in February 2011, and sentenced to 15 years in prison;

Whereas, on November 21, 2013, 66 United States Senators wrote to President Barack Obama urging him “to act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain [Alan Gross’s] release,” and pledging “to support [the] Administration in pursuit of this worthy goal”;

Whereas during Mr. Gross’s five years in prison, his health seriously deteriorated and his mother Evelyn Gross passed away;

Whereas Mr. Gross’s family remained tirelessly committed to ensuring his well-being and return to the United States;

Whereas, over the course of several years, the United States Government used a variety of channels to encourage the Government of Cuba to release Mr. Gross;

Whereas, in March 2012, during his visit to Cuba, then-Pope Benedict raised Mr. Gross’s detention with President Raul Castro;

Whereas, in 2013, the Governments of the United States and Cuba began 18 months of closed door talks on Mr. Gross’s detention and on improving the relations between the two countries;

Whereas, in October 2014, Pope Francis played a key role in the negotiations between the United States and Cuba, making personal appeals to both President Obama and President Raul Castro, pushing for reconciliation between the two countries, and hosting a diplomatic meeting at the Vatican between the United States and Cuba;

Whereas, on December 17, 2014, the Government of Cuba released Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds and allowed him to return to the United States;

Whereas, on December 17, 2014, President Obama also announced the reestablishment of diplomatic ties with Cuba;

Whereas, in this announcement, President Obama thanked Pope Francis for his involvement and the example he provides to the international community; and

Whereas, on December 18, 2014, Pope Francis said, “The work of an ambassador lies in small steps, small things, but they always end up making peace, bringing closer the hearts of people, sowing brotherhood among people.”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) extends its gratitude to Pope Francis for his extraordinary efforts in helping to secure the release of Alan Gross;

(2) commends His Holiness for his role in encouraging reconciliation between the United States and Cuba; and

(3) warmly welcomes the return to the United States of Alan Gross.

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