Catholic church could play larger role in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba

(USA Today) The relationship between Fidel Castro and the Cuban Catholic Church has been a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, though it has noticeably improved in recent years.

Even in his death, announced Nov. 25, Castro defied the church by requesting that his remains be cremated, a practice accepted but discouraged by the Vatican.

But his death could also embolden the church to take a more proactive role on the communist island in the years to come and bolster its budding relationship with his brother, President Raúl Castro, said Enrique Pumar, head of the Sociology Department at Catholic University of America, who has studied the Catholic Church in Cuba.

“This is definitely an opportunity,” Pumar said. “Raúl is going to be more open to the church. But this is going to happen gradually. That’s the way change takes place in Cuba.”

Fidel was schooled in an elite Jesuit school in Santiago de Cuba in the eastern part of the island and later attended the Jesuits-led Colegio de Belén in Havana. Even the band of guerrillas he led in the 1950s weren’t all atheists. They had a chaplain, appointed by his bishop, to baptize babies born in the Sierra Maestra and to bury the dead revolutionaries, journalist and author Austen Ivereigh wrote recently in Cruxnow.com, an online Catholic news outlet. [More]

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USA Today/NCR Online