Just days after the Vatican was credited for its critical role in brokering a historic diplomatic deal between the United States and Cuba, some experts say the church’s intervention was not simply an act of good will but something that could promote democratic changes on the island.

“This was a very direct intervention to try and expand the Catholic Church in Cuba,” said Eusebio Mujal-Leon, a professor of political science at Georgetown University who writes about Europe, Latin America and Catholicism. “Just as Obama had an agenda going into this, the church also has an agenda going into this.”

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama thanked Pope Francis for his “moral example” during negotiations. The Vatican hosted direct meetings between the U.S. and Cuba at the Vatican in October and the pontiff wrote personal letters to Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro imploring both sides to resolve “humanitarian questions” involving the release of political prisoners in the U.S. and Cuba, including Alan Gross, the American who was imprisoned in Cuba for five years.

Read more here.