Via the Latin American Herald Tribune:
VATICAN CITY – This week’s 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s excommunication of Cuban leader Fidel Castro coincides with preparations for a visit to the Communist-ruled island by the current pontiff, Benedict XVI.
Castro was excommunicated a month and a day after his Dec. 2, 1961, speech proclaiming himself a Marxist-Leninist and announcing his plans to lead Cuba to communism.
John XXIII supported that measure in the 1949 decree of Pope Pius XII, which established the penalty of excommunication for anyone spreading communism.
The revolution headed by Castro had already proclaimed itself “socialist,” and later the state declared itself to be “atheist” up until 1992 when that designation was replaced in the Cuban Constitution by the word “secular.”
Benedict XVI will travel in March to Mexico and Cuba on his second visit to Latin America after a 2007 excursion to Brazil.
President Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, said a few weeks ago that Cuba would welcome Benedict XVI with “affection and respect” on a visit coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the finding of the image of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the island’s patron saint.