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

SISTERS of the HOLY VESTMENTS - Vestments to be worn by Pope Francis during Ecuador visit made by these Carmelite nuns Watch

Image of Pope Francis will be in Ecuador July 6-7 as part of a trip to South America July 5-13. He will also visit Bolivia and Paraguay.

By Maria Ximena Rondon, CNA/EWTN News

Within the walls of the convent in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, Ecuador, the Carmelite nuns are busy making liturgical cloths and the vestments for Pope Francis' July 6-7 visit to the country. Quito, Ecuador (CNA/EWTN News) - "For me it is a great grace because it ... continue reading


Will Pope Francis chew coca leaves on his forthcoming trip to Bolivia? Watch

Image of The coca leaf, whose daily use and cultural importance in the Andes region rivals that of coffee in the United States, is embroiled in controversy in the international community because of its use as the main ingredient in the addictive drug, cocaine.

By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis might chew coca leaves - or maybe sip coca tea - during his visit to Bolivia next week, the Vatican has said. Vatican City (CNA) - Bolivian Culture Minister Marko Machicao told local media that Francis had asked to chew coca leaves in the country, one of ... continue reading


Caribbean nations in grip of worst drought in five years Watch

Image of In South America, Brazil has been struggling with its own severe drought. Reservoirs serving the metropolis of Sao Paulo have been drained.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

From the eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia, to Cuba to Puerto Rico, the Caribbean is suffering from what is described as a "bone-dry" summer. Crops are withering and dying in the worst drought to hit the region in five years. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Modern man marvels at Inka Road -- 500-years-old, still standing - built without the wheel Watch

Image of Running through areas some 16,000 feet high, the road cuts through prairies, forests, deserts, valleys and mountains.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Modern man has a lot to learn from the ancient Incas. As a testament to their engineering and water management skills, the great Inka Road - more than 500 years old, and criss-crossing through six nations of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina ... continue reading


Mexico's Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriages in all 31 states Watch

Image of Same-sex couples wishing to marry are able to obtain injunctions against the laws limiting marriages to heterosexuals.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Declaring the definition of marriage as only the union of a man and a woman as discriminatory and unconstitutional, Mexico's Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage for all 31 states. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Procreation" was not a purpose for ... continue reading


Aboriginal women in Canada more likely to fall prey to domestic violence, murder Watch

Image of The federal police force said that last year 1,017 aboriginal women had been murdered between 1980 and 2012, while another 108 were missing under suspicious circumstances.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Canada's aboriginal women are frequently marginalized and under-represented in the Great White North. Tragically, the one thing that these women are over represented in is Canada's homicide rate. While comprising only 4.3 percent of the female population, ... continue reading


Church confirms that demons are running loose in Mexico, prompting a radical exorcism Watch

Image of In May the nation of Mexico was exorcised in an effort to save the country from violence and anarchy.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The high level of violence and crime in Mexico, as well as the government corruption and ability of drug cartels to run portions of the country with immunity have led some senior officials in the Catholic Church to fear that the country is totally at the mercy of ... continue reading


Meet the 'Children of the Moon': Panama villages' albinos make up 10 percent of population Watch

Image of [Photo by: Reuters]

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Mythologically believed to be descendants of the sun, as its "grandchildren," albinos must be kept away from the sun as it can cause them a painful, slow death. With sensitive skin and eyes, they are physically endangered by the sun. Albino children only get to ... continue reading


El Salvador teen MS-13 gangsters 'barbarically' rape 16-year-old girl in NYC Watch

Image of Pictured: Jose Cornejo, 17 (Suffolk County DA)

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Held without bail and charged as adults with rape, assault, sexual abuse, robbery and other crimes, three teenagers from the MS-13 gang plead "not guilty." Bryan Larios, 18, Joel Escobar, 17, and Jose Cornejo, 17, reportedly raped a 16-year-old girl after threatening ... continue reading


DEFENDING REPUTATION: Red Cross defends work in Haiti after expose says group built only six houses Watch

Image of The American Red Cross dismissed the report as lacking in

By Stella Dawson, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The Red Cross has defended its work in Haiti following a devastating earthquake five years ago after a media investigation found it had only built six houses despite raising nearly half a billion dollars in donations. WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - ... 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, Genesis 27:1-5, 15-29
1 When Isaac had grown old, and his eyes were so weak ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 135:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 Alleluia! Praise the name of Yahweh, you who serve ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 9:14-17
14 Then John's disciples came to him and said, 'Why ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 4th, 2015 Image

St. Elizabeth of Portugal
July 4: Elizabeth was a Spanish princess who was given in marriage to ... 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