Since the announcement of former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s death at the age of 90, November 27, 2016, there has been celebration in some parts of the world, while the country of Cuba grieves and enters a 9-day mourning period. The somber ambiance in Cuba is signally juxtaposed with the scenes of revelry in Little Havana in Miami, Florida. “The streets of Havana were as somber Saturday as the streets of Little Havana in Miami were festive Across the Straits of Florida in Miami. In the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, home to Cuban exiles, revelers partied all day, waving Cuban or US flags while some sang to festive music. Revelers spilled into the streets of Miami. They popped champagne, clanged pots, cheered and waved the Cuban flag in jubilation. They stood outside the popular Versailles restaurant in Little Havana with signs reading, ‘Satan, Fidel is now yours.’” The revolutionary Castro leaves behind a mixed legacy for many; some praising him for his efforts to aid and defend the poor, while others cast contempt upon him for his culpability for the murders of thousands of people during his regime, not to mention his denial of Cuban citizens’ basic human rights, forcing millions into exile. It is no secret that Cuba was a communist/socialist, totalitarian government under Mr. Castro and this is something that strikingly resonates with the Roman Catholicism.
After learning of the leader’s passing, “Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cuban President Raúl Castro Saturday, expressing his ‘sentiments of sorrow’ over the death of Raúl’s brother, former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. ‘On receiving the sad news of the death of your dear brother, His Excellency Mister Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, former president of the State Council and of the Government of the Republic of Cuba, I express my sentiments of sorrow to Your Excellency and other family members of the deceased dignitary, as well as to the people of this beloved nation,’ the Pope’s Spanish-language telegram reads. ‘At the same time, I offer prayers to the Lord for his repose and I entrust the whole Cuban people to the maternal intercession of our Lady of the Charity of El Cobre, patroness of this country,’ he said.”
Unbeknownst to some, “Castro went to Jesuit schools before enrolling at the University of Havana, where he was a student leader.” It is likely at these Jesuit institutions that Mr. Castro’s ideological concepts were formed, and to this he admits. “Castro highlighted the sense of discipline and justice he learned from his Catholic educators. ‘The Jesuits clearly influenced me with their strict organization, their discipline and their values,’ he wrote in the collection of writings ‘Fidel: My Early Years.’ ‘They contributed to my development and influenced my sense of justice.’” Although his education and upbringing was strongly Catholic, “in 1961, Castro dismantled the Catholic educational system, arguably the church’s most concrete influence on Cuban life, through the nationalization of all schools on the island. As a result of those actions and growing hostility toward the church, over a hundred priests were exiled, and hundreds of others left.”
However, over time, and after the first Papal visit to Cuba from Pope John Paul II in 1998, wherein Castro partook in the Mass, the reconciliation between Cuba and Roman Catholicism began solidifying. “But the clear turning point for the Roman Catholic Church’s engagement with Cuba was John Paul II’s 1998 visit. His celebration of Mass on the Plaza de la Revolución represented the public reconciliation of the church and the Cuban government. As a result of the trip, Castro made Christmas [a Roman Catholic Holy day] a national holiday… Raúl Castro’s presidency, beginning in 2008, marked a new era in Cuban-Catholic relations. The 2010 opening of a Roman Catholic seminary in Havana was the first of its kind since the 1959 revolution. Raúl Castro attended, along with Archbishop of Havana Jaime Ortega and Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski, forming a symbolic trinity of a new era in Cuban, Cuban-American and Catholic relations.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Cuba visit in 2012 was overwhelmingly interpreted as supportive of Ortega, positioning the church as a political player and a human rights advocate on the island. The visit revealed that Catholic parishes in Cuba were providing education and community outreach, that Catholic charity Caritas was engaged in relief work and that church attendance on the island increased. Castro later granted the pontiff’s request to make Good Friday a national holiday.” Of course in 2014, Pope Francis was the person who worked behind the scenes, meeting with the respective Presidents of Cuba and the United States, to bring about a thawing out of diplomatic relations between the nations. It must also be remembered that Pope Francis visited both countries, only a week apart in September 2015.
It is quite interesting, albeit not coincidental, that after each Papal visit to Cuba, a Roman Catholic “Holy day” was made into a national Holiday; which is the same argument that will be used in the various nations to enforce Sunday observance, beginning in the United States, that government leaders have the authority to appoint a National “holy” day. The Catholic publication Crux News reported on Castro’s relationship with the three consecutive Popes and their impact upon him and his country. “A hero to the left across the world, a hated figure to the right, especially in the United States, Castro is perhaps the only world leader to have received three popes - although when he met Benedict XVI in 2012 and Francis in 2015, he was technically no longer president… Francis was the third pope to travel to the island nation after St. John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012. Only Brazil and Mexico have received all three, but unlike Cuba, with a population of just 9m, they are the world’s largest Catholic countries. Francis included a stop at Fidel’s residence, where the two had a private meeting. It was the seventh encounter between Castro and a pope: he’d had five with John Paul II, and one with Benedict XVI. The meeting between Francis and Castro lasted 30 minutes, and at the time was described by the Vatican as ‘friendly and informal,’ with the two swapping books about religion and talking about ‘the common problems of humanity,’ including environmental degradation. The pope gave Castro a copy of his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, a book by Italian priest Alessandro Pronzato and one by a Spanish Jesuit, Amando Llorente. Llorente was the revolutionary leader’s teacher at the Jesuit-run Colegio de Belen (Bethlehem College) in the 1940s but was expelled by Castro in 1961 and died in Miami in 2010… After John Paul II’s death in April 2005, Castro attended a mass in his honor in Havana’s cathedral and signed the Pope’s condolence book at the Vatican Embassy. ‘Rest in peace, indefatigable battler for friendship among the peoples, enemy of war and friend of the poor,’ Castro wrote in a long message. ‘The efforts by those who wanted to use your prestige and your enormous spiritual authority against the just cause of our people in their struggle against the giant empire [the United States] were in vain,’ he continued.”
It is clear that the deference Fidel Castro held for the Roman Catholic Church and its highest leaders up until his death was mutual. Fidel Castro, personally and his government regime closely mirrored the cruel and unscrupulous reign of the Roman Catholic Church during the dark ages. Students of bible prophecy well understand the Papal power will regain the ascendancy and rekindle her despotism and persecutions of the past, and she will use the governments of the land to accomplish this, namely, the United States government (see Revelation 12:17—Revelation 13:1-18). If anyone has had centuries of dictatorship, repressing civil and religious liberties and mercilessly brutalizing and killing those who stood in defense of Bible truth and upheld the principles of liberty of conscience, it is the Roman Catholic Church, who also were instrumental and extremely involved in the Holocaust in Nazi Germany; and therefore it is not surprising that the Popes, including the present one, Francis, would have and express such high regard for their “brother” and fellow-persecutor, Fidel Castro.