Castro May Rejoin Catholic Church, Say Rumors in the Italian Press
Fidel Castro will soon be on his knees. At least that’s the chatter in Rome, where the Italian press is reporting that Castro is preparing to be readmitted to the Roman Catholic Church when Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba next month. Speculation over Fidel’s return to the fold went viral after La Repubblica and La Stampa, two of Italy’s most respected dailies, reported that after a career as a committed revolutionary atheist, the ailing octogenerian strongman had seen the light. Castro has lately “come closer to religion and to God,” his daughter, Alina Fernández, told La Repubblica.
The word swept the Christian media. Could the largest living icon of communism really be on the verge of penitence? Though long estranged from her revolutionary dad, Alina Fernández is a devout Catholic and frequent visitor to Rome where she enjoys close contact with the church hierarchy. A well placed source in the Vatican tells The Daily Beast that a private encounter between Castro and Benedict XVI is indeed in the works in which Fidel could receive the Pope’s blessing, although there was no guarantee of absolution or a confession. But the rest may be little more than holy smoke.
When she first heard the “news” of Castro imminent conversion, “I had a good laugh,” says Julia Sweig, a historian with the Council on Foreign Relations and a prominent Cuba scholar. “I was with Fidel in 2010, when he talked about his agnosticism. Yes, during John Paul II’s papacy, he regarded the church as an institution playing a constructive role in Cuban society and culture. But all that was for reasons of state and doesn’t suggest an end-stage conversion.”
“Relations between religion and politics have long been something of an anomaly in Cuba,” says Riordan Roett, a Latin America scholar at Johns Hopkins. “But conversion and absolution? That’s pretty farfetched.” Nor does Brazil’s Frei Betto, a Franciscan friar and close friend of Castro’s, pay much heed to the suggestion that the Cuban revolutionary is ready to bow his head. “In my opinion, he’s an agnostic,” says Betto, whose series of interviews with Castro in the early 80s led to a bestselling book, Fidel and Religion. [More]
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