While it has gotten little attention here, the news media in Italy is abuzz with rumors that Fidel Castro will convert to Catholicism during Pope Benedict’s upcoming visit to Cuba. GetReligion.org reports:
Fidel Castro will be received back into the communion of the Roman Catholic Church during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island in March, the Italian press is reporting. If true, this is a remarkable story — and one that has yet to catch the attention of editors this side of the Atlantic.
On 1 Feb 2012, La Republicca … reported that as death approaches, the octogenarian communist has turned to God for solace.
ABC’s Global Note news blog is the only U.S. general interest publication I have found that has reported this story. It referenced the La Republicca story and said that Castro’s daughter Alina is quoted as saying “During this last period, 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.” The article quotes an unidentified high prelate in the Vatican who is working on the Pope’s Cuba trip: “Fidel is at the end of his strength. Nearly at the end of his life.… We know that in this last period he has come closer to religion and God.”
Some Italian websites have even speculated as to when Fidel will make his confession and credo — setting the date as 27 March 2012 at 17:30 when the two ottantacinquenni, Pope Benedict XVI and Castro, will meet at the Palacio de la Revolución when the pope makes his official visit to the head of state, Raul Castro.
If this actually happens, it would be nothing short of a miracle. Rarely does someone who has cooperated with evil so deeply and for so long achieve true repentance. Castro certainly has a great deal to confess. According to the Black Book of Communism, a groundbreaking effort by a group of French scholars to document the lives lost to Communism in the 20th century:
From 1959 through the late 1990s, more than 100,000 Cubans experienced life in one of [Castro’s] camps [or] prisons…. Between 15,000 and 17,000 people were shot.
And according to the State Department’s most recent human rights report on Cuba, the Castro regime continues the “harassment, beatings, and threats against political opponents by government-organized mobs and state security officials acting with impunity; [imposes] harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including selective denial of medical care; arbitrary detention of human rights advocates and members of independent organizations; and selective prosecution and denial of fair trial.”
Will Castro confess and repent of these and countless other crimes he has committed against the Cuban people? And even if he does, will he be willing not only to confess, but to accept the Church’s admonition: “Go and sin no more”? When Saul of Tarsus, the great oppressor of the early church, was struck blind on the road to Damascus and became the Apostle Paul, he did not simply convert—he immediately ceased his oppression. Will Fidel cease his oppression of the Cuban people? Will he, in the words of Isaiah, “bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness?”
In 1994, Castro declared he “would rather die than abandon the revolution.” Perhaps as he finally nears death, he has reconsidered. If he truly has, we will know it not by some announcement during the Pope’s visit, but rather by what happens after the Pope departs Cuba. If Castro orders the Cuban gulags emptied; disbands his network of “committees in defense of the revolution” which police neighborhoods and orchestrate “acts of repudiation” against dissidents and their families; shuts down his brutal ministry of the interior and ceases the arbitrary arrest and detention of his political opponents; allows freedom of speech, assembly, and religion, and, ultimately, democratic elections, then—and only then—will we know that Fidel Castro has truly converted.