The Pope Meets with the Castro Brothers after Criticizing Ideologies

By Isaac Risco (dpa)

Pope Francis visiting Sunday Sept. 20th with Fidel Castro and his wife Dalia Soto. Foto: Alex Castro

HAVANA TIMES — The most political part of Pope Francis’ visit to the Cuba came to a close on Sunday. Public criticisms levelled at ideologies before thousands of people marked the Pope’s second day on the socialist island. Hours later, His Holiness also had one of the most anticipated meetings of his trip, an encounter with Fidel Castro.

The visit to the home of Cuba’s historical leader was made prior to his meeting with President Raul Castro, who had welcomed the pontiff on Saturday and attended the Pope’s mass at Revolution Square very early on Sunday. Opposition activists reported arrests during the ceremony.

The open-air mass was one of the most highly awaited moments of Francis’ four-day visit to the island. People were particularly interested in hearing the pastoral message of his address, in which his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, made allusions to Cuba’s social and political realities (in 1998 and 2012, respectively).

Pope Francis did this also. The Argentine Jesuit chose “service unto others” as the issue of his homily, which included criticisms that may be interpreted as political.

“There’s a way of helping which stems from an interest in benefiting my “own,” in the name of what’s “ours,” Francis said.

“This kind of service always leaves “your kind” out, leading to a process of exclusion,” he regretted. “That is why help is never ideological, as one does not serve ideas, one serves people.” The homily was pronounced before a multitude that the Vatican later reported was made up of some 200,000 people.

The mass was attended by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, personally invited by Raul Castro, as well as by hundreds of invitees from the high echelons of the socialist government and tens of thousands of church-goers and curious people, who arrived at the square hours in advance.

“We stayed up all night so we could make it,” Ana Maria Ferrer, a 52-year-old Catholic woman from Havana told DPA. Cuban authorities also deployed buses to transport government sympathizers to Havana’s renowned square, known, among other things, for its gigantic metal relief sculpture of Che Guevara.

Later in the day, opposition groups reported that several dissident activists had been arrested. Some 20 activists from the Ladies in White opposition ground were arrested at around five in the morning while heading to the square, Berta Soler, the group’s leader, told DPA.

On her Twitter account, dissident Martha Beatriz Roque accused authorities of detaining her while trying to reach the Havana Cathedral. The church confirmed it had invited Roque to take part in a function that Pope Francis would take part in, adding it was not aware of the detentions.

During the afternoon event held at the Cathedral, as well as during the gathering with hundreds of young people at the nearby Felix Varela Cultural Center, the Pope appeared jovial and relaxed. At several moments throughout the day, the pontiff had been tired, spokesman Lombardi had announced. “But, when he starts to speak spontaneously, he has tremendous energy,” he added.

Francis put aside the speech he’d prepared to address the young. “Let us learn to accept that we think differently,” His Holiness told those present, calling on them not to allow themselves to “become locked in the cloisters of ideologies.” The Pope Mobile had been received with cries of joy around Old Havana, after the Pope emerged from his meeting with Raul Castro at the Palacio de la Revolucion.

The much-awaited and never-confirmed visit to Fidel Castro’s home in Havana’s west supposedly took place following the mass. It was a very relaxed and “informal” gathering that lasted around 30 to 40 minutes, the Vatican spokesman explained. Castro and the Pope exchanged books as gifts.

Cuba’s official media later broadcast images of the encounter between the 78-year-old Pope and 89-year-old former leader of Cuba, where several of Castro’s relatives were present.

Francis will travel to Holguin today as part of his historic visit to Cuba. The Argentine Pope will hold another open-air mass there before heading to the city of Santiago de Cuba, where his trip will come to a close. On Tuesday, Francis will depart for the United States.


15 thoughts on “The Pope Meets with the Castro Brothers after Criticizing Ideologies

  • Fully agree with you. Of course the pope had to use the chance to meet Fidel Castro. If you only ever speak to people you agree with how will you be able to change the world for the better? It was his duty to meet with Fidel Castro. If I had the chance I would do as well and ask Fidel Castro to his face why he insisted on the state murder of three silly young black men who hijacked the ferry to Regla. it was an act of vindictive murder full stop.

  • The Israelites were indeed in enslaved in Egypt, and archeological evidence supports this historical fact, however the facts are somewhat different than the story as told in Exodus. Archeological evidence shows that there were several groups of Israelites in Egypt and that they left over a period of several centuries: let my people go, and go, and go….etc. The story of Moses is a legend based on facts, but not all the facts.

  • I agree with you on communism NJ. It really is a very bad system. I would
    be right at the front lines to rid my country of the enslavement it perpetrates and forget what it did to religion when Castro came to power in the early sixties. We need to open up our country to Cuba and change will happen!
    Embargo is absurd and the restriction for traveling by all US citizens is
    a personal affront!

  • In free enterprise capitalism your boss controls your destiny. To not understand this is to wish to be a slave while thinking you’re in a democratic system.
    Communism is a FUTURE state that can only come into existence following the replacement of free-enterprise and state capitalism with socialism. You don’t understand this basic truth.
    State capitalism as practiced in Cuba provides the basics of life as undemocratically decided upon by those in the upper reaches of power.
    FEC will never provide the basics of life to the people under it because accumulating money is the most important feature of FEC. .
    We agree that Cuba’s system is totalitarian with government officials acting as private owners do in FEC confiscating and redistributing the profits made by the workers.
    Where we disagree is I believe free-enterprise capitalism is more totalitarian than Cuba’s state form and you seem to believe that FEC is somehow not totalitarian but is somehow democratic.

  • Griffin,
    The essence, the meaning of my (mis) quote was correct.
    If you place the love of money higher than the love of your fellow man, you’re going straight to Christian Hell.
    Agreed, manna is God-provided sustenance
    Mammon is wealth.
    and FYI, The Israelites were never enslaved in Egypt as proven by extensive fairly recent Israeli archaeological searches.
    The Moses story is a huge baseless fiction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *