The Washington Post

Pope meets with Fidel Castro, urges more freedom

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI ended his three-day visit to Cuba on Wednesday (March 28) with an appeal for more religious freedom for the Catholic Church, ahead of a highly anticipated meeting with the island’s historic leader, Fidel Castro.

And while he stopped short of openly criticizing the island’s communist regime during the trip, Benedict nonetheless said Cuba needed “change” and a “renewed and open society.”

The pope celebrated Mass on Wednesday in Havana’s Revolution Square for about 300,000 people, according to the Vatican’s top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Cuban President Raul Castro was in attendance and joined in the crowd’s applause when the pope entered the stage.

Benedict and Raul Castro had had a 40-minute private meeting on Tuesday where, according to Lombardi, the pope asked Castro to consider making Good Friday a national holiday and made some “humanitarian requests.” No details were given about the details of Benedict’s requests.

On the plane that was flying him to his earlier stop in Mexico, Benedict urged Cuba to look for “new models” beyond its “Marxist ideology,” which he said could no longer “respond to reality.”

But during the Mass on Wednesday, Benedict only acknowledged that both “Cuba and the world need change,” adding that change would come only through “love” and by “sowing reconciliation and fraternity.”

Benedict’s more strongly worded appeal on Monday to “build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity,” was promptly rebuked by Marino Murillo, a vice president in the Council of Ministers, who told journalists on Tuesday that “political reform” was not on the agenda.

“We are talking about the update of the Cuban economic model to make our socialism sustainable,” he said of the country’s steps towards opening some economic sectors to private initiative.

At Wednesday’s Mass, Benedict acknowledged Cuba’s progress in granting the Catholic Church greater freedom, but called on the government to allow the church a wider role in society, especially in the “fields of knowledge.” The Cuban government doesn’t allow the church to open schools or universities.

Before leaving Cuba, the pope met for 30 minutes with the island’s leader Fidel Castro. Castro had stated his desire to meet for “a few minutes” with the pontiff in a column published on the Internet.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Universal Uclick.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.