Cuba's atheist Castro brothers open doors to church and popes

Sep 10, 2015 Ahead of the papal visit in late September, Fidel and Raul Castro have reconcile relations with the Church after declaring Cuba an atheist state.

Baptized as Roman Catholics and educated by Jesuits, Fidel and Raul Castro turned against the Church after seizing power in the 1959 revolution. The Castro brothers went on to declare Cuba an atheist state, chasing out priests and shutting down religious schools in the process.

During his historic visit to Cuba in 1998, Pope John Paul said:

“I wish that Cuba would open all of its magnificent possibilities to the world and that the world would open to Cuba,” 

Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba will further highlight the new relationship between Cuba and the Church. Commenting on the new relationship, political analyst, Aurelio Alonso said:

“Among the most interesting aspects of Cuban politics was Fidel Castro´s political vision during what just happened, in which if you look carefully, the public stage, for the first time in the history of the revolution, was not in the hands of Fidel but the Pope. In other words, Fidel gave the Pope the stage without interfering,”

Lenier Gonzalez, an analyst of religious affairs, said the Pope´s recent role in politics is a welcome development.

“The relationship between the Catholic Church in Cuba and the Cuban government has improved over many years. The relationship used to be tense, very complex, but since John Paul II´s visit, both parties have been willing to negotiate, to move closer, and this has made way for areas of collaboration between the Church and the Cuban government which have grown, leading to the present day in which the Church, the Holy See and Pope Francis participated and facilitated the process of Cuba and the United States coming together,”

Fidel Castro, now 89 years old and retired, has repeatedly praised Christian values. His brother and presidential successor Raul Castro, has gone even further by opening talks with Church leaders inside Cuba and allowing religious processions.

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