Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Agostino Bono

2/20/2008 (7 years ago)

Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com)

Initially, his successful rebellion had ample support among Catholics. He cultivated the support by saying his revolution was motivated by Christian principles.But things quickly changed.

A long run: Fidel Castro (r.) met with Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Krushchev in Moscow in 1964.Though intially claiming his revolution was motivated by christian principles, the Revolutionary embraced Marxist ideology and adopted an adversarial posture with the Catholic Church.

A long run: Fidel Castro (r.) met with Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Krushchev in Moscow in 1964.Though intially claiming his revolution was motivated by christian principles, the Revolutionary embraced Marxist ideology and adopted an adversarial posture with the Catholic Church.

Highlights

By Agostino Bono

Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com)

2/20/2008 (7 years ago)

Published in Americas


WASHINGTON (CNS) - During nearly 50 years of rule, Fidel Castro had an often-stormy relationship with the Cuban Catholic Church.

The Jesuit-educated Castro was equally comfortable defusing the Cuban church as an institutional force during the early years of his revolution in the 1960s as he was bantering casually with Pope John Paul II during the papal visit to Cuba in 1998.

The 81-year-old Cuban leader announced Feb. 19 that he was retiring as head of the island nation. He had temporarily ceded power to his younger brother, Raul Castro, in July 2006, after undergoing surgery because of intestinal bleeding -- but he never returned to office, ending more than 49 years of continuous rule.

He came to power on the Caribbean island Jan. 1, 1959, at 32 years of age after leading a successful guerrilla rebellion against unpopular dictator Fulgencio Batista.

After Batista came to power in 1952, Castro, a young lawyer, started organizing a rebel force.

Initially, his successful rebellion had ample support among Catholics. He cultivated the support by saying his revolution was motivated by Christian principles. In a press interview with a Catholic priest shortly after taking power, Castro noted that six priests were chaplains to his rebel forces.

But things quickly changed. In 1961, he declared himself a Marxist-Leninist and made Cuba the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere, moving it into the Cold War camp of the Soviet Union.

His government began institutionally dismantling the church, nationalizing 350 Catholic schools and expelling 136 priests. Church activity was restricted to religious services on church property. Social action projects were prohibited. Church programs were monitored, and Cubans were discouraged from attending worship services with churchgoers discriminated against when seeking state and university employment.

Castro's view of the church further soured in the mid-1960s during Operation Pedro Pan, in which U.S. church officials helped resettle 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children sent to the U.S. by parents wanting them to escape Castro's rule.

Despite the crackdown on the church, Castro never broke diplomatic relations with the Vatican and continued for decades to get from Vatican, Cuban and U.S. church officials statements criticizing the crippling U.S. economic boycott of Cuba, which he constantly cited as the reason for Cuba's economic woes.

Because of this church support there also were some positive notes in church-state relations.

During a 2006 U.S. visit, Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana said that starting in the 1980s "there was an evolution on the part of the government," increasing church-state communication, and "the tension began to diminish."

The result was that limits on the church no longer involved the ability to worship but involved the continued inability to have Catholic schools or teach religion in public schools, said the cardinal.

But Castro also knew how to play foreign church factions against the Cuban hierarchy to make it look as if only local Catholics opposed his rule.

In the 1970s Castro tapped into Latin American theologians' interest in Marxism and their political interest in socialism as an alternative to the capitalism practiced in the region. He cultivated support among non-Cuban Catholic intellectuals and priests dissatisfied with the region's growing gap between the rich and the poor, inviting them to visit his island as a counterpoint to criticisms by Cuban and Vatican church officials.

In 2003 he sidestepped the Cuban bishops and directly negotiated with the Vatican to allow a group of Brigittine Sisters entry into Havana at a time when the Cuban bishops had a long list of foreign priests and nuns wanting entry visas.

In the early 1990s, serious talks began about the possibilities of a papal visit to Cuba in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

After a 1996 Castro visit with Pope John Paul at the Vatican, plans finally developed for the Jan. 21-25, 1998, papal trip, interpreted as a sign of improved church-state relations based on a willingness by the government to give the church more breathing space in the post-Cold War era.

Castro met the pope several times during the Cuban visit, allowed church officials to mobilize Catholics to attend papal events and permitted papal activities to be televised and reported in the state-controlled media.

---

Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Americas

Mexican gun battle ends with 43 shot to death Watch

Image of The New Generation Cartel has killed more than two dozen police and soldiers since March.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A three-hour gun battle between government forces and a drug cartel at a ranch in the western Mexican state of Michoacan has ended with 43 shot and killed. Suspected gang members and police began a massive standoff. According to authorities, only one of the dead ... continue reading


Castro so impressed with Pope Francis he may 'go back to the church' Watch

Image of The pontiff

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Cuban President Raul Castro thanked Pope Francis at the Vatican this past weekend for his work establishing a new Cuban-U.S. detente. Castro, known for his harsh treatment of dissidents - that has brought condemnation from the Vatican - said he was considering ... continue reading


Chile volcano erupts for third time, experts warn it may happen again Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

After about half a century without any activity, the Calbuco volcano located in South Chile erupted last Thursday, a week after it signified its life with a roar. According to reports it released a large volume of smoke described as a "towering act" by Yahoo! News. ... continue reading


Long-lost tomb of Teotihuacan's first king may be closer with exciting new discovery Watch

Image of Because of the potential supernatural significance of liquid mercury in ancient ritual, Gomez hopes to find the elusive last resting place of a king.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Mexican archaeologist hunting for a long lost royal tomb in the bowels of Teotihuacan has made an exciting discovery. Sergio Gomez has found "large quantities" of liquid mercury in a chamber at the end of a sacred tunnel sealed for nearly 1,800 years. LOS ... continue reading


First U.S. Hispanic Saint: Pope Francis to canonize Junipero Serra during U.S. visit Watch

Image of Father Junipero Serra's canonization will

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis and the Vatican have announced plans to canonize the Blessed Junipero Serra during the Pope's visit to the United States on September 23. Serra will become the United States' first Hispanic saint. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Often times, the ... continue reading


Canadian couple takes to amazing floating fortress to get away from it all Watch

Image of Located off the coast of Tofino, British Columbia, Freedom Cove was built in 1992. The couple, who have two children, live in the home year round.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Wayne Adams and Catherine King  are an unconventional Canadian couple who have forsaken the bustle of city life with their floating fortress that they've named "Freedom Cove." Off the grid and self-sustaining, the pink and green floating home is a welcome respite ... continue reading


New species of prehistoric 'terror bird' found in Argentina Watch

Image of Researchers say that the Llallawavis likely lived around 3.5 million years ago, near the end of terror birds' reign. It stood about four feet tall and weighed about 40 pounds.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Birds, it is commonly believed, evolved from dinosaurs. However, between now and then, some horrific, carnivorous birds ruled the prehistoric world with an iron claw. A new species of "terror bird" has been uncovered in Argentina; paleontologists are gaining ... continue reading


Dozens of mummies uncovered in Peru's Cotahuasi Valley Watch

Image of Finding the reasons behind the selective destruction of the mummies and artifacts is a challenge.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Tombs, containing at least 40 mummies each have been discovered in Peru's Cotahuasi Valley. Archaeologists say that at least 171 mummies have been unearthed at the 1,200-year-old ceremonial site. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Located on small hills ... continue reading


Underground tunnel between U.S. and Mexico found hidden in wardrobe Watch

Image of When soldiers raided the property, they also reportedly seized 44 pounds of marijuana and a truck being used by the racket to move the excavated earth.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An average wooden wardrobe near San Diego served a far more sinister purpose. Concealed within its doors was a small trapdoor that led to a secret underground passageway stretching some 500 feet towards the U.S. border. The Mexican military uncovered the ... continue reading


Rare video shows 'successful' exorcism on woman 'possessed by devil' Watch

Image of Laura was described by locals as

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A 22-year-old woman, only identified as Laura, was reportedly a good girl before the devil turned her bad, according to Argentina locals. In this disturbing footage, Laura is seen writhing in pain, screaming as Bishop Manuel Acuna performs an exorcism on her. LOS ... continue reading


All Americas News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 2:1-11
1 When Pentecost day came round, they had all met ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Bless Yahweh, my soul, Yahweh, my God, how great ... Read More

Gospel, John 20:19-23
19 In the evening of that same day, the first day of ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
3 Because of that, I want to make it quite clear to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 24th, 2015 Image

St. David I of Scotland
May 24: David, the youngest son of Scotlandís virtuous queen, (Saint) ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter