- (Photo: Reuters/Zoraida Diaz)
Fidel Castro, who years ago abandoned Christianity for atheism, is scheduled to meet with Pope Benedict XVI later this month in Cuba, and Cuban media are reporting that during the visit, Castro will ask to be readmitted to the Roman Catholic Church. The former dictator's daughter, Alina Fernadez has also said that her father has "come closer to religion and to God."
While it is unclear if Fidel Castro is in fact turning toward religion, some of the communist nation's recent political decisions have shown the state moving toward a more compatible relationship with the Catholic Church. The Daily Beast reports that President Raul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro who succeeded him four years ago, recently engaged in negotiations over political prisoners with Havana's archbishop, Cardinal Jamie Lucas Ortega Y Alamino. As a result of the talks, Raul Castro agreed to release many political prisons from Cuban jails.
Jamie Lucas Ortega Y Alamino was also able to convince Raul Castro to provide greater defense from pro-Castro groups that committed several attacks on the Damas de Blanco, a human rights group made up of women related to political prisoners, according to The Daily Beast.
There have been more Cuban Catholic church successes recently. The Havana Times reported that the Cuban government allowed the Catholic Church to develop websites and electronic publications. It may not sound like a huge victory, but the Internet is very limited in Cuba, so being allowed to disseminate information to the public via the Internet is a large victory for Cuban Catholics.
Fidel Castro was in power for 48 years, before ailing health forced him to step down and appoint his younger brother, Raul, as his successor. Under Fidel there was far less government and church cooperation. In fact, up until 1991, religious practitioners could not join the ruling party, and were thus blocked from high-level education and jobs.
Some speculate that Fidel may be interested in rejoining the Catholic Church because of his declining health. But an anonymous source told The Daily Beast that repentance, confession, and absolution are not necessarily going to be the topics of the meeting between Castro and the pope. The source did suggest, however, that there is a chance Pope Benedict XVI will offer Castro his blessing.
The Havana Times reported that although the pope will meet with both Fidel and Raul, he is not traveling to Cuba on the brothers' behalf. Rather, his is journeying to Cuba is meant to support the Cuban Catholic Church. It is the first time the Vatican has visited Cuba since Pope John Paul II traveled to the communist nation in 1998.