On October 16, 1962 photos taken from a US spy plane conclusively showed the installation of Soviet missile sites in Cuba capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the United States. 90 miles from the coast of the USA the Soviet Union’s missiles are readied for launch.
Thus the Cuban Missile Crisis!
Time magazine’s correspondent in Rome tells of back channel efforts on the part of Pope John XXIII to de-escalate the threat of nuclear war between the USA and the USSR.
John enlisted the help of Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review of Literature. Pope John urged Cousins to undertake shuttle diplomacy between Kennedy and Khrushchev.
The efforts of John XXIII were significant in the resolution of the crisis. Kennedy agreed to withdraw American forces from Turkey and Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the nuclear missile sites in Cuba.
John asked Cousins to present a Peace Medallion to the one who took the greater risk to achieve peace. Cousins flew to Moscow and presented the medal to Khrushchev, whom he said was the one who took the greater risk. Kennedy had invaded Cuban in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. To retain his credibility with Soviet citizens Khrushchev must not be seen as losing to Kennedy. It had to be win-win. Both leaders had to give something to win the peace.
60 years ago, for thirteen days in October the world stood on the brink. Pope John, among others, facilitated a step back from that brink.
Vatican II had just begun on October 11th and John was thrown into the center of a nuclear standoff. The Cuban Crisis played a significant role in the Council’s deliberations on world peace.
Father Steve Adrian