Is Raúl Castro Really on a ‘Road to Damascus’?
Pope Francis held a 55-minute private meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro on May 10, after which Castro said he was so impressed by Francis he might return to the Catholic Church’s fold.
“I read all the speeches of the pope, his commentaries, and if the pope continues this way, I will go back to praying and go back to the church, and I’m not joking,” Castro said to reporters at the Vatican after the meeting.
The New York Times called Castro’s statement “startling,” considering the recent history of Cuba: “It was a startling assertion for the leader of a Communist country, whose crackdown on dissidents in the past had drawn sharp Vatican criticism” (May 10).
The surprising nature of the statement was not lost on Castro himself: “I am from the Cuban Communist Party, that doesn’t allow [religious] believers, but now we are allowing it,” he said. He called the new allowance of some religious practices “an important step” for his nation.
Castro also said he would give Francis a warm welcome in Cuba this September, and promised to “go to all his masses, and with satisfaction.”
Many rejoiced, thinking Castro’s statement must mean that Cuba will now reform—that Castro would spend his remaining years fixing the devastation he and his brother have wrought on the Cuban people. After all, how could the president simultaneously embrace religion and continue the totalitarian practices of banning free speech, jailing political opposition, forbidding travel of Cubans, tightly restricting religious practices, and so on?
But this optimism is ill founded. Castro is no reformer. His track record strongly indicates that he would only practice a Catholicism that tolerates his regime exactly as it is. And under Pope Francis, the church seems willing to do just that.
Throughout his pontificate, Francis has made no attempt to conceal his hatred of capitalism. He seems to view it as enemy number one. And maybe he is willing to overlook some of Castro’s faults in order to win the backing of another opponent of capitalism.
It is significant that at the end of their meeting, Francis presented Castro with a copy of his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). As the pope handed the document to the Cuban president, he said: “There are here some declarations that you will like!”
What “declarations” might Communist Castro like in Francis’s document? Many of its passages read as though Castro wrote them himself.
For example: “[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. … This opinion … expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” Francis also calls free market global capitalism “a new tyranny,” and condemns it as “a financial system which rules rather than serves.”
When Francis first released Evangelii Gaudium back in 2013, it drew criticism for its calls to end capitalism and its espousal of extreme leftist economic policies.
After reading the document, Andrew Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, wrote: “The pope seems to prefer common ownership of the means of production, which is Marxist, or private ownership and government control, which is fascist, or government ownership and government control, which is socialist. All of those failed systems lead to ashes, not wealth.”
It is not hard to see why the pope believed a Communist like Castro would “like” Evangelii Gaudium. And it is not hard to see why Castro would consider returning to Catholicism—as long as it is Francis’s version of Marxism-infused Catholicism, a version that apparently makes no demands for the Castros to reform their brutal authoritarian regime.
Shortly after the news broke that Pope Francis had played a key role in brokering the deal that thawed U.S.-Cuba relations, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote: “Modern leaders would—and should—object to this kind of deal even more forcefully if they knew anything about the Holy Roman Empire. For many, the fact that the pope endorsed this deal made it more palatable! This shows that they really don’t understand anything about that Vatican-guided empire. It looks so righteous, so good. But look at the history of the Catholic Church! Not only has it authored a lot of foreign-policy nightmares throughout the ages, but conservative estimates say it has presided over the deaths of more than 50 million people! …
“The German-led European Union is the seventh and final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire—that same Holy Roman Empire which, centuries ago, used Cuba so powerfully to fuel its wars. If the present resurrection were to move into Cuba again, it would be well positioned to make these kinds of attacks happen. The advantage is that it could do it in the cloak of secrecy, since Cuba is essentially a police state with tight controls on information. Think of the control that it could have. Think of how valuable Cuba has been to America’s enemies in the past! You need to watch what is happening in Cuba” (March 2015).
Castro’s meeting with the pope, his contemplation of returning to Catholicism, and his plan to host Francis in Havana this fall show that Vatican influence in Cuba is rapidly growing. To understand the significance of this, read Mr. Flurry’s article “The Deadly Dangerous U.S.-Cuba Deal.”