La Tribuna, a daily newspaper of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, announced yesterday that Pope Benedict XVI will meet Fidel Castro March 27, 2012, on the pontiff's visit to Cuba. Fidel Castro himself seconded the report by tweeting a link to it. Vatican Insider, a website run by the Italian newspaper La Estampa, confirms that the Pope will visit Cuba from March 26 to 28 and meet Fidel.
The Pope's visit coincides with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the miraculous appearance of a statue of Our Lady of Charity in the waters of the Bay of Nipe.The previous pope named Benedict, Benedict XV, made Our Lady of Charity the patroness of Cuba. The basilica of Our Lady of Charity is in El Cobre in the Oriente province of Cuba.
Even beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, a complex web of reverence is woven about Our Lady of Charity, the basilica, and Oriente province. Fidel Castro was born on his father's farm not far from the basilica. The Cuban revolution began in Oriente province. In the Afro-Cuban tradition Santeria, Our Lady of Charity is identified with Oshun, the orisha of love.
Posted comments to news articles about the upcoming meeting show that some supporters of the two leaders are very disappointed. Some write that the Pope should not meet a former communist dictator who suppressed religion during hisalmost fifty years of rule. Others write that Castro should not meet an ex-Nazi who lives in a palace. The most cynical writers note that fascism and communism often walk hand-in-hand.
Analysis: The Enemy of My Enemy
What purpose does this meeting serve? This writer believes neither man has any personal desire for this meeting. The Catholic Church and the Cuban Communist party do, however, both stand to benefit from a rapprochement in the face of rising right-wing evangelical politicians in Spanish-speaking countries. Religious affiliation, whether sincere or feigned, is a very divisive issue in Spanish-speaking communities. Politicians struggle with some difficult straddles. For example, Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) vigorously asserts that he is a Catholic despite years of attendance at the evangelical Christ Fellowship Church in Miami. Fidel Castro, despite years of Marxist-Leninist philosophizing, occasionally attends mass. Moreover, in some countries in Latin America, the Left and the Catholic Church find themselves in an uneasy alliance against the power of a prominent evangelical officers in the military. Both Leftist and Catholic factions get a public relations boost from the meeting of Fidel Castro and Pope Benedict XVI..