The relationship between Cuba and the Holy See has been complicated to say the least. Communism took over the island in 1959. It wasn't long before religions were targeted.
Practicing Catholics were viewed under suspicion. Under the orders of Fidel Castro, priests were deported. Parishes were seized and Catholic schools were closed. Even more, Catholics weren't allowed to have positions of power. The size and influence of the Church dwindled when tens of thousands of Cubans fled the island.
In 1992 the communist government modified its constitution, changing its status from atheist to secular.
Surprisingly, despite the tension, the diplomatic ties between Cuba and the Holy See remained intact. In fact, Cuba is the only communist country with which the Holy See has never broken off its diplomatic relationship. This despite the fact that practicing Christians were repressed in Cuba, both public and private life.
Both states had their stark differences, among them was the censoring of religion and the imprisonment of critics. But they did meet eye to eye on social issues like war, debt and poverty. Perhaps, even more telling was that both agreed that the U.S embargo against Cuba needed to end.
Their relationship now seems to be at its high point, but getting there took decades and it wasn't easy.
Even though Pope Francis is the protagonist, the process of easing ties between the U.S and Cuba has been in the works for decades. From papal visits to presidential audiences and a lot of patience in between.
Slowly but surely, Cuba started to ease its restrictions against Christians, with symbolic gestures like recognizing Christmas and Easter as official holidays. A percentage of buildings and parishes that were seized, have been returned to the Church.
The month of June marks 80 years since both states established diplomatic ties. Now only time will tell how this new chapter in history will affect the ties and relationship between Cuba and the Holy See...and most importantly how it will affect the way Christians practice their faith on the island.