Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cuba in March. Two of Italy’s top newspapers are reporting that Fidel Castro will avail himself of the visit to confess his sins and be accepted back into the Catholic Church, which excommunicated him in 1962.
“During this last period, Fidel has come closer to religion,” says Castro’s estranged daughter Alina who lives in Miami. “He has rediscovered Jesus at the end of his life. It doesn’t surprise me because dad was raised by Jesuits.”
A baptized and confirmed Catholic, but lifelong layman, I don’t claim expertise in ecclesiastical matters. But before granting absolution the Catholic Church, I’m fairly sure, still requires contrition—sincere contrition.
On his 1998 visit to Cuba, Pope John Paul II remarked that he was “reserving judgment on Che Guevara who had served the poor.” Upon greeting the Cuban ambassador to the Holy See in 2005, this same pontiff hailed Cuba’s “gains in health care and education.” The above makes patently obvious that, on matters Cuban, the Vatican references the same media and academic sources gleefully bestowed Havana bureaus and visas by the Castro regime. Heaven knows the Vatican is not alone on this.
So if the Italian papers are right–and with all due respect to whomever has been tasked with hearing Fidel Castro’s confession and granting his absolution—I offer the following educational items regarding Castro’s historical record of sincerity:
“Cuban mothers let me assure you that I will solve all Cuba’s problems without spilling a drop of blood.” Fidel Castro broadcast that promise into a phalanx of microphones upon entering Havana on January 7, 1959. As the jubilant crowd erupted with joy, Castro continued: “Cuban mothers let me assure you that because of me you will never have to cry.”
The following day, just below San Juan Hill in eastern Cuba, a bulldozer rumbled to a start, clanked into position, and pushed dirt into a huge pit with blood pooling at the bottom from the still-twitching bodies of almost a hundred men and boys who’d been machine-gunned without trial on the Castro brothers’ orders. Many of the victims’ mothers, wives and mothers wept hysterically from a nearby road as their loved ones were thus buried, some still alive.
Thousands upon thousands more Cuban men and boys (along with some girls) crumpled before Castro and Che’s firing squads in the days and months and years to come.
“Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long Live Christ the King) were the last words of many of the martyrs. Catholic youth groups were among the first to mount resistance to Castro and Che Guevara’s Stalinization of Cuba. Tragically for them, in the early ’60s the Castro regime’s KGB mentors were still flush from massacring thousands of Catholic (among many other) freedom-fighters during the Polish, Ukrainian and recent Hungarian rebellions against Soviet rule. Denied U.S. help (from 90 miles away) while the Soviets (6,000 miles away) lavished their Caribbean satraps with massive firepower and 40,000 “advisors,” Cuba’s anti-Communist rebels fared no better than did those in Eastern Europe.
In the process of extinguishing the freedom-fighters, Castro and Che Guevara’s regime jailed more political prisoners as a percentage of population than Stalin’s and executed more people (out of a population of 6.4 million) in its first three years in power than Hitler’s executed (out of a population of 65 million) in its first six. These figures come from the human rights group Freedom House and from the Black Book of Communism, authored by French scholars and translated into English by Harvard University Press, not exactly headquarters for “the vast-right wing conspiracy,” much less of “right-wing Cuban exile crackpots.”