By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in CNN:
Will Pope Francis visit inspire freedom in Cuba?
As Pope Francis visits the United States for the very first time, it is our privilege as Catholics and Americans to welcome His Holiness to our country. Here, he will find people who are uniquely free.
We Americans are free to give our opinions and make our voices heard. We work in a free enterprise economy that, for over 200 years, has lifted countless individuals above the circumstances of their birth to achieve their God-given potential. We have been an exceptional country because, here, people are free to practice their faiths and worship God.
And we have enshrined in our founding documents and promoted the fundamental truth, all around the world, that the rights of all men, women and children -- not simply Americans -- come from God.
Religious freedom is often referred to as America's first freedom. Our country was founded by religious exiles and built on the belief that God has given all people certain inalienable rights. Government's role in society is to protect these rights and ensure that we are safe from religious persecution and discrimination.
For centuries, faith has helped us overcome problems and helped us work to achieve a more perfect union. It has inspired the many leaders who played a key role in abolishing slavery, protecting civil rights and, hopefully one day, becoming a nation where all life -- from conception to natural death -- is protected.
Faith has also greatly shaped America's role in the world. We are a country that embodies the Bible verse from Luke chapter 12, verse 48 -- "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded."
Our brave men and women have made many sacrifices in just wars to defeat the forces of evil. We have exported our greatest values: freedom and opportunity, which have lifted millions out of poverty. At home, these values allow Americans to use their God-given potential and make their dreams reality. For this reason, we are truly blessed, and I am excited for Pope Francis to see this firsthand.
This month, the Pope also visits a country that is close in distance from the United States, but far from free.
In Cuba, His Holiness won't find a government that protects its people and their God-given rights. Instead, he will find a regime that oppresses people and hinders progress, both socially and politically. He will meet with a regime that is solely responsible for the Cuban people's plight over the past 56 years.
He will find a place where every Sunday in the past six months -- as they've been doing for many years -- Cuban agents are assigned to a Catholic Church where their instructions are to beat, jail and intimidate the Ladies In White that attend Mass and who afterwards peacefully take to the streets calling for the release of their husbands, sons and fathers who are political prisoners.
My hope is that the Pope's visit to Cuba will remind all the Cuban citizens that they possess dignity and fundamental rights that come from God and that the Castro regime has no claim on changing what is 100% God-given.
I pray the Pope can use his moral authority to inspire true religious freedom, and bring us closer to the day when freedom can finally take root on the island country; because only then will the people of Cuba prosper and have the opportunity to live out God's plan.
It has been seven years since the last papal visit to the United States, and our world is rapidly changing. Now more than ever, our faith is important. But even when we are deeply divided over important issues facing our country and the world, "In God We Trust" for the guidance and wisdom to do what's both right and necessary for our Republic.
After all, it is our belief in a greater God that gives us hope each day for a brighter future. Please join me in welcoming Pope Francis to the United States, and helping him to spread peace and prosperity to people around the world.
at 9:22 AM Saturday, September 19, 2015
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