Pope played crucial role in US-Cuba rapprochement in dispute Vatican has long hoped would end

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The crucial role played by the Vatican in bringing Cuba and the United States together signals that history's first Latin American pope is willing to put the Holy See on the front lines of diplomacy.

The Vatican, which has long championed the cause, said Wednesday that Francis wrote to President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in recent months and invited them to resolve their differences over humanitarian issues, including prisoners.

In addition, the Vatican hosted U.S. and Cuban delegations in October "and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both parties," the Vatican said in a statement.