An interesting and truly disturbing article this morning at GetReligion.org, which details reports coming from the Italian press that Pope Benedict XVI will receive Fidel Castro back into communion with the Catholic church during the Papal visit scheduled for late March of this year.
Last temptation of Castro
Fidel Castro will be received back into the communion of the Roman Catholic Church during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island in March, the Italian press is reporting. If true, this is a remarkable story — and one that has yet to catch the attention of editors this side of the Atlantic.
On 1 Feb 2012, La Republicca — [Italy’s second largest circulation daily newspaper, La Republicca follows a center-left political line and is strongly anti-clerical; not anti-Catholic per se but a critic of the institutional church] — reported that as death approaches, the octogenarian communist has turned to God for solace.
Some Italian websites have even speculated as to when Fidel will make his confession and credo — setting the date as 27 March 2012 at 17:30 when the two ottantacinquenni, Pope Benedict XVI and Castro, will meet at the Palacio de la Revolución when the pope makes his official visit to the head of state, Raul Castro.
During Pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Cuba, Castro attended mass, but did not receive the Eucharist or give voice to Christian beliefs. If his daughter’s story is true and Castro returns to the church it will be very interesting to see how it plays out across the media.
The La Republicca article closes its report on Castro’s return to the church by stating:
In Havana there waiting for the arrival of Benedict XVI. The Church in Cuba is loved and respected. So is the government for its broad social interventions.
The church can thus serve as a “mediator” between the people and the government in the post-Castro era, La Republicca argues. I think it is a bit of a stretch to say the government is loved and respected for its “social interventions”, but La Republicca is a left-wing European paper and its default position is that Cuba’s experiment with socialism is a moral good.
Which ever way it goes, the Castro/repentance story will be fascinating to watch. What does it mean for a dictator to seek repentance? What does forgiveness mean? Is moral redemption possible in this day and age? How will those who have been harmed by the regime respond? What about the prisoners of conscious who remain in Cuban jails —- a Cuban political prisoner, Wilmar Villar, died on 21 January 2012 after a 50 day hunger strike — what does an old man’s repentance have to say about that?