This seems like big news to me. Get Religion is reporting that Fidel Castro may be seeking to be received back into the Catholic Church in conjunction with the Pope’s upcoming visit.
This is a mass murderer. On of the most oppressive tyrants in the world today. As much as I love any conversion story, this one could be tricky. There are prisoners of conscience rotting away in prison in Cuba right now. I’m thinking they’d have to be released, wouldn’t they? Public penance for the thousands killed?
Here’s the story:
On 1 Feb 2012, La Republicca — [Italy’s second largest circulation daily newspaper, La Republicca follows a center-left political line and is strongly anti-clerical; not anti-Catholic per se but a critic of the institutional church] — reported that as death approaches, the octogenarian communist has turned to God for solace.
ABC’s Global Note news blog is the only U.S. general interest publication I have found that has reported this story. It referenced the La Republicca story and said that Castro’s daughter Alina is quoted as saying
“During this last period, Fidel has come closer to religion: he has rediscovered Jesus at the end of his life. It doesn’t surprise me because dad was raised by Jesuits.” The article quotes an unidentified high prelate in the Vatican who is working on the Pope’s Cuba trip: “Fidel is at the end of his strength. Nearly at the end of his life. His exhortations in the party paper Granma, are increasingly less frequent. We know that in this last period he has come closer to religion and God.”
Some Italian websites have even speculated as to when Fidel will make his confession and credo — setting the date as 27 March 2012 at 17:30 when the two ottantacinquenni, Pope Benedict XVI and Castro, will meet at the Palacio de la Revolución when the pope makes his official visit to the head of state, Raul Castro.
This story has so many facets, many of which are pointed out in the excellent Get Religion story.
It truly is a momentous story. And I don’t want to focus on the geopolitical aspects of it. A soul that I would suspect is very much in peril could be saved. That is, as Marc Thiessen says, is “a miracle.” But there are other aspects to the story that really can’t be ignored.
If this actually happens, it would be nothing short of a miracle. Rarely does someone who has cooperated with evil so deeply and for so long achieve true repentance. Castro certainly has a great deal to confess. According to the Black Book of Communism, a groundbreaking effort by a group of French scholars to document the lives lost to Communism in the 20th century:
From 1959 through the late 1990s, more than 100,000 Cubans experienced life in one of [Castro’s] camps [or] prisons…. Between 15,000 and 17,000 people were shot.
And according to the State Department’s most recent human rights report on Cuba, the Castro regime continues the “harassment, beatings, and threats against political opponents by government-organized mobs and state security officials acting with impunity; [imposes] harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including selective denial of medical care; arbitrary detention of human rights advocates and members of independent organizations; and selective prosecution and denial of fair trial.”
Will Castro confess and repent of these and countless other crimes he has committed against the Cuban people? And even if he does, will he be willing not only to confess, but to accept the Church’s admonition: “Go and sin no more”? When Saul of Tarsus, the great oppressor of the early church, was struck blind on the road to Damascus and became the Apostle Paul, he did not simply convert—he immediately ceased his oppression. Will Fidel cease his oppression of the Cuban people? Will he, in the words of Isaiah, “bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness?”
This is a story to watch. I’ll try to stay on top of it.