Pope Francis appears to have succeeded in changing some minds among Cuba’s governing communist elite.
Cuban President Raul Castro thanked Pope Francis on Sunday for brokering the thaw between Havana and Washington and said the pope so impressed him that he might return to the Catholic Church, despite being a communist.
The 83-year-old younger brother of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel spoke with the Argentine-born pope for nearly an hour – unusually long for a papal meeting – during a meeting the Vatican said was strictly private and not a state visit.
Leaving the meeting, Castro told reporters that he thanked the pope for the Vatican’s contribution to December’s historic resumption of diplomatic relations between the former foes after more than half a century of antagonism.
Later, at a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Castro said he came out of the meeting with the pope “really impressed by his wisdom and his modesty”.
“When the pope comes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses and I will be happy to do so,” he said, adding that he reads all of the speeches of Latin America’s first pope, who has made defense of the poor a major plank of his papacy.
“I told the prime minister if the pope continues to talk as he does, sooner or later I will start praying again and return to the Catholic Church, and I am not kidding,” he said.”
Now if his Holiness can just find the spiritual wherewithal to sanction abortions and same-sex marriage, he may be able to count Democrat Nancy Pelosi among his loyal, but not necessarily faithful, fans when he visits the US in September!