Although Pope Benedict XVI's March 23-28 outing to Mexico and Cuba officially constituted one voyage, in reality it was a tale of two trips. In Cuba, the pontiff was at his most political, engaging in a delicate and controversial tete-a-tete with the Castro regime; in Mexico, Benedict instead focused on the pastoral, featuring a gentle debunking of clericalism.
Benedict's six-day journey, which took him to the LeOn archdiocese in Mexico and Santiago and Havana in Cuba, was the 23rd foreign outing of his papacy, but his first to Spanish-speaking Latin America. (The pontiff visited Brazil in 2007.)
From a media point of view, the spotlight was clearly on Cuba, where the pontiff met both 80-year-old Raul Castro, the current president, and his 85-year-old brother Fidel, father of the island nation's revolution. Benedict, who also turns 85 on April 16, reportedly told the ailing Fidel that despite his age, "I can still do my job."
As if to prove the point, Benedict walked a political and diplomatic …