Thursday, December 01, 2016

Fidel and the Jesuits

Image result for castro and pope francis

Prime Minister Trudeau took heat at the beginning of the week when he praised the late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. He seemed to let his father's affection for Castro get in the way of an honest perspective on Castro. Fidel was a revolutionary who had a socialist vision for his country, and the overthrow of the government of Cuba in the late 1950s was an opportunity for change. There were impressive advances in health care and education which might have been an impressive legacy. But in the end Fidel was a repressive dictator whose policies hindered rather than helped his people.

I was interested to see that Castro, head of an officially atheistic country, was educated by the Jesuits. Apparently he was a rebellious child, so his father sent him to schools run by this Roman Catholic order of legendary discipline and intellectual rigour. The revolutionary who closed religious schools and jailed priests conceded that the Sermon on the Mount was compatible with Marxist principles. Castro maintained a relationship with one of the Jesuits until that priest's death, even though he had expelled the order from the island decades before.

There were even rumours that Castro had developed a renewed a personal  interest in Christian faith in his waning years. His  daughter Alina commented “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.”

Castro did restore Christmas as a holiday in Cuba, and permitted religious rites such as baptism without reprisal. He welcomed popes to the country, and allowed the church to become a significant agent for social change once again.

There is no escaping his miserable human rights record for most of his regime but he may have "met his maker" in the end.

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